This record by tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker could well become album of the year as designated by various newspapers and magazines.
It is a monumental achievement on several counts. Significantly, Brecker has become the largest single influential artist of the tenor since John Coltrane. There is little disagreement on that. Secondly, Brecker recorded "Pilgrimage" in the midst of the debilitating diseases mylodesplastic (MDS) and leukemia.
Weakened as he was, Mr. Brecker worked long and hard to complete what he knew would be his last recording. He passed away Jan. 13, 2007.
For this final demanding effort, Mr. Brecker pulled together an all-star group of collaborators including pianists Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau; bassist John Patitucci; drummer Jack De Johnette; and guitarist Pat Metheny.
"Loose Threads" is particularly interesting with its counterpoint of rhythm and melody. One can only imagine the physical toll on Brecker from his exertion of mind and body during its recording. Mr. Hancock was the secondary soloist also with a demanding effort.
"Tumbleweeds," a medium tempo piece, uses all hands. De Johnette and Metheny are in the thick of the early action. About midway, Brecker breaks out with some of his patented improvisation before finally turning it over to Hancock. Then at the end of the track, there is a spine tingling, uncharted, rhythmically escalated conversation between Brecker and Metheny.
During one of Brecker's hospitalizations, physical contact with family or friends was not allowed. This restriction caused his son to ask, "When Can I Kiss You Again?" Brecker then composed and recorded a song with that title here. It is a pretty but somewhat somber ballad.
This is some of the most moving music I've heard, a definite iconic recording.
"THE FREEDOM BOOK"
Truth be told, Booker Ervin was one of the most exciting tenor players of his era and this re-released recording is solid, swinging proof.
Accompanied by pianist Jaki Byard, bassist Richard Davis and drummer Alan Dawson, Ervin elicits varying emotional responses as one moves through the tracks. There is the very sentimental "Cry Me Not" written by Randy Weston followed by an Ervin original, "Grant's Stand." The latter has a fierce tempo and some immense creativity embodied in everyone's solos. Then finishes with a dirge like "A Day to Mourn" inspired by the funeral music played on the radio after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
"SPIRIT OF THE MOMENT"
Pianist Michel Camilo is a great example of Dominican Republic exports that are not bananas or baseball players.
Frankly, I'm very glad he chose music for his life's work. The classically trained pianist and his trio of bassist Charles Flores and drummer Dafnis Prieto offer 12 tunes combining their Latin roots with classical, bop, blues and New Orleans influences.
Sailors who sailed between Caribbean islands and New Orleans brought the rumba to the founding place of jazz centuries ago. "Just Now," the first track, combines Latin with New Orleans and blues music. The result is a sensuous hook, which defies the listener to turn it off.
"My Secret Place" has a totally different impact. This is a gorgeous ballad befitting a romantic movie sound track. Flores' bass has a gentle wave like roll until near the end when he bows beautifully as Camilo closes out the selection.
"Repercussions" is a fast-paced boppish tune. However, no matter how fast his tempo, Mr. Camilo never seems rushed. This trio is reminiscent of Ahmad Jamal groups not because of stylistic similarities but because of the integration of six hands and minds.
Dick Bogle hosts a weekly jazz radio show 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays on KMHD 89.1 FM. He can be reached at email@example.com.