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This was in todays Boston Globe:


Posthumous 'Pilgrimage' is Michael Brecker at his best
By Steve Greenlee, Globe Staff | May 23, 2007

Michael Brecker ranks among the most influential and imitated saxophonists in jazz history. His tone was sinewy and sultry, full-bodied and expressive. He performed in an array of styles, from contemporary post-bop to funk to pop. He played behind an astonishing range of artists, from the jazz pianist Horace Silver to the pop singer Paul Simon. Frankly, he put more effort into supporting other artists -- and co-leading the Brecker Brothers funk outfit with his brother, the trumpeter Randy Brecker -- than furthering his own solo career. He did lead his own sessions, but they were uneven. Despite earning 13 Grammies, he never issued a masterpiece.

Brecker died in January at age 57 of leukemia and a rare bone marrow disease called myelodysplastic syndrome . While suffering the effects of his debilitating condition, Brecker went into the studio with a team of A-list musicians and recorded a passionate, energetic collection of music. Titled "Pilgrimage," it is the culmination of his career. It is the record of his life. And it might be the jazz album of the year.

This is not melodramatic praise spurred by some desire to memorialize the tenor saxophonist. On its own terms, "Pilgrimage" is a stunning achievement: 77 minutes of compelling original music that never loses its edge, solos that soar, dynamic group interplay that communicates wonderfully in the universal language.

Anyone expecting a mournful, ballad-filled enterprise is in for a surprise. This album celebrates life with its joyous themes, upbeat rhythms, and stellar performances from Brecker's quintet, which features guitarist Pat Metheny , bassist John Patitucci , drummer Jack DeJohnette , and pianists Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau , who take turns depending on the need for their vastly differing styles.

Brecker throws his entire being into his solos, hopscotching through the melody on "The Mean Time," contrasting the harmony on the tense "Five Months From Midnight," bending notes and playing counterrhythms on the stormy "Loose Threads" (which incidentally features one of the finest solos we have ever heard from Hancock).

There is a touch of melancholy here and there -- especially on the only ballad, the sparsely decorated "When Can I Kiss You Again?," whose title was inspired by something Brecker's teenage son said to him in the hospital. But there is nothing remotely maudlin about "Pilgrimage." Brecker even seems angry at times, and on "Tumbleweed" he's completely playful, blowing against a rock groove that feels like one of Hancock's old "Fat Albert" pieces rejiggered. Even the title tune, the final track Brecker ever recorded, is filled with optimistic and high spirits.

No, there is no self-pity here. "Pilgrimage" is sheer exuberance. One gets the feeling Brecker had a lot on his chest, things he wanted to say with this final statement made in the last months of his life. The man knew he was dying. He knew this session would be his final recording. He made it count. He let it all out. He blows us away.
 

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amen
 

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tomsch said:
I agree completely. I've been alternating between Breckers new CD and Mike Nock the last two days. Both recordings have fire in them and made over a decade apart.
I've been listening to the new cd everyday at work since it came out. The Mike Nock recording is a little gem. A buddy of mine turned me on to that when I was in school.
 

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kritavi you should have wrote the sleeve notes because you've got the review spot on
 

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I've been listening a lot to this album. The thing I love is how great everyone is playing on this CD. Hancock plays some of his best stuff here. Metheny and Brecker compliment each other perfectly.

You can really tell that Mike was pouring everything he could into the solos.

I can't believe this album marks the end of the brecker progression/evolution.
 

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Kritavi said:
No, there is no self-pity here. "Pilgrimage" is sheer exuberance. One gets the feeling Brecker had a lot on his chest, things he wanted to say with this final statement made in the last months of his life. The man knew he was dying. He knew this session would be his final recording. He made it count. He let it all out. He blows us away.
sinkdraiN said:
You can really tell that Mike was pouring everything he could into the solos. I can't believe this album marks the end of the brecker progression/evolution.
Agreed on ALMOST all counts. Great record. A joy and a sadness to hear. I've listened to it several times and I'll listen to it more (and probably review it in more detail) later.

I'm not hearing this as a "progression" or "evolution" for MB as a player. That's not a surprise given that he was playing after a two-year lay-off -- just to pick up where he left off is an unbelievable achievement under the circumstances or otherwise.

Perhaps at the end he was satisfied to say, "I'm gonna do what I do with people I love." He had nothing to prove and that is the ultimate liberation. What a shame that it came at such a cost.

What a talent. What a life. What an example.
 

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I've been listening to it every day constantly since it came out. I can't get enough of it.
 

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What is everyone's favorite song on it?

I like number 8 the best so far, but I forget the name. It is the one with the time stops.
 

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I really love the transitions in the mean time.
 

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I have to be honest. When I heard the back story of "When Can I Kiss You Again" I was gone - tearing up like my wife at a Meryl Streep movie. I do think Mike sounds a little different (darker tone) but the level at which he was playing is remarkable - even more so given the length of time that he hadn't been playing. This is a fantastic swan song. Thank heavens we still have garzone and Bergonzi.
 

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kevvieg said:
I have to be honest. When I heard the back story of "When Can I Kiss You Again" I was gone - tearing up like my wife at a Meryl Streep movie. .
I didn't know about the "back story" so i looked it up. For those, like me who didn't know...the title "When Can I...." is a quote from his son during a time of treatments when nobody could touch Mike.
 

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I've been listening to the new cd everyday at work since it came out. The Mike Nock recording is a little gem. A buddy of mine turned me on to that when I was in school.
Mike Nock grew up in a small town about ten miles from here.
Ngaruawhia. It is where one river joins another larger on.
In fact I think that is what the name translates to.
If you could see this place you would wonder how on earth a world
class jazz musician came out of there.

I know there was a rather eccentric older pianist that lived there that
was an influence on Mike in his early years.
 
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