Michael Brecker Quindectet: Wide Angles

Jason MacNeil

Michael Brecker Quindectet

Wide Angles

Label: Verve
US Release Date: 2003-09-09
UK Release Date: 2003-09-08

Many of you may be asking just how many people are in a quindectet. 12? 16? Actually, counting the musicians on the back of the album sleeve, it appears that a quindectet is 15. And from the opening notes of this jazz album, the 15 musicians all play an important if slightly unequal role. "Loxodrome" starts the 70-minute album out with Michael Brecker's playing leading the way behind Antonio Sanchez's drumming and various other horn instruments. The groove is established early while the star is allowed to twist and turn musically. The song resembles early '70s jazz and could be mistaken for a score to some '70s action movie's chase scene. Even the first song has so many subsections that it's proof Brecker is one of the best in the business.

"Cool Day in Hell" is more orchestrated and brings his huge influence, John Coltrane, to mind instantly. The song itself doesn't quite have the same bite as "Loxodrome", and relies more on dramatics to communicate. Possessing a certain amount of flow, though, the tune has a certain murky quality, with tension building to its conclusion nearly eight minutes after its opening. "Angle of Repose" is a reflective piece with Sanchez's brushing just moving the song along. The cello and violin of Erik Friedlander and Lois Martin, respectively, is this song's selling point. John Patitucci's standup bass (it resembles standup if not) is given a solo spot halfway through the song. At times it comes to a crawl, though, making it just a bit longer than it needs to be.

The album takes a lovable turn with the flighty "Timbuktu" -- a primal yet intricate effort where Steve Wilson's flute works its magic. The bounce in this number is also another selling point, resembling at times a rhythm and blues meets Latin conga arrangement. Brecker takes it out of this primal point exactly halfway in, giving it more of a jazz spin that becomes more intense. It's also one of the finest performances Brecker gives on the record. "Night Jessamine" doesn't quite cut it, though, with the funky bass line and quasi-wah wah guitar trying to blend with a structured string arrangement. A song that one knows might be a good idea, but should be left as such.

The centerpiece of the record comes in "Scylla", a pensive and lengthy song that takes a while to get going. Recalling Dave Brubeck's early work, Brecker works with the core of his band while letting the other members touch up certain areas. By the proverbial quarter pole, the band is in full swing, ebbing and flowing as the mood suits them. Although the album's title might refer to the cinematic nature of the sound, at times it just seems a bit of overkill, especially on this track. Brecker competes here with the string section, making his performance a tad muddled. It becomes clearer as it evolves, but by then it unfortunately seems a bit too late.

The be-bop, head-bobbing quotient rears its infectious head on the beautiful "Brexterity", a song that seems to fold upon itself time and time again without repeating itself. The ease with which Brecker incorporates the band is the greatest asset here. And it seems to say more in a shorter time than "Scylla". The biggest surprise comes with "Modus Operandy", a track that follows Brecker's pattern until about a minute in, when things get really hazy. And extremely funky! It brings the Average White Band or even the Red Hot Chili Peppers to mind, if that's conceivable. The calm and tranquil coda, "Never Alone", is out of place here, but generally Brecker knows what works well on this record.

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.