Randy Brecker (Trumpet), Adam Rogers (Guitar), Chris Minh Doky (Bass), Dean Brown (Guitar), Don Alias (Percussion), George Whitty - Drum Programming, Engineer, Keyboards, Mixing, Producer, Programming, Greg Calbi - Mastering, Hiram Bullock - Guitar, Vocals (Background), James Farber - Engineer, Joe Caro - Guitar, Joe Locke - Vibraphone, Katreese Barnes - Vocals (Background), Michael Brecker - Sax (Tenor), Mike Harvey - Vocals (Background), Richard Bona - Bass (Electric), Will Lee - Bass (Electric), Vocals (Background).
For Randy Brecker, a road warrior for the past 30 years, it's a time of reverie mixed with a large dose of fantasy and sparked by restless creativity. Brecker has not only documented some of his more fanciful notions over the years in verse and rhyme but he's also put them to music on Hangin' in the City (ESC Records), a funky tour through the darker recesses of Randy's mind hosted by his streetwise alter ego, Randroid (a nickname that saxophonist Gary Bartz laid on him ten years ago when they toured Japan with the Coltrane Legacy Band). "He's a crazy degenerate cab driver," explains Randy of his rapping, singing, swaggering other half, "and the whole thing is a story about his experiences with the opposite sex." As Mac Rebennack has his Dr. John and William Collins has his Bootsy, so Randy Brecker has his Randroid. "This is just some stuff I had to get off my chest," says the Grammy-winning trumpeter and composer of this funky escapade. "I've always thought of myself as an observer, and many of these scenarios that I sing about on the record are a result of real occurances either between myself and the opposite sex or humorous stories I've witnessed or heard about through the vast musician's grapevine. There is an oral tradition that exists in jazz -- cats talking about themselves and their partners in crime and their experiences on the road. Sometimes that humor comes out of the music. Monk was funny. So was and is Sonny Rollins. Sometimes the humor comes out lyric-ally and musically, as in Parliament-Funkadelic, Lyle Lovett, Frank Zappa and your basic 'my baby left me' blues. So this collection is inspired by 'the cats' and the witty ways they express themselves, both lyrically and musically." Some of the cats appearing on Hangin' in the City include Randy's tenor saxophonist brother Michael Brecker, bassists Richard Bona, Chris Mihn Doky and Will Lee, guitarists Hiram Bullock, Joe Caro, Dean Brown and Adam Rogers, vibist Joe Locke and percussionist Don Alias. For years, Randy collected snippets of lyric ideas he had written in various hotel rooms around the world. He eventually gathered them all together on a laptop computer, an invaluable tool which has also allowed him to compose music and create sequences while touring. "A lot of the stuff for this recording was written on the road late at night...some of it about my own life, some stuff I made up," Bre cker explains. "You're never sure what's gonna come out sometime when you go out on the road. You draw ideas from your own life experiences but then you make stuff up from there. So it's a combination of fact and fiction. There's definitely a lot of fiction involved too...crazy ideas that come to mind in hotel rooms late at night after a gig." In the guise of Randroid, he is able to rap fluently in streetwise fashion on "Overture", play it ultra-hip on the brash title track and party like a fool on "Down 4 The Count" while bragging about his various sexual conquests on visceral throwdowns like Dr. John-ish "One Thing Led To Another" and the raunchy, Zappaesque "Then I Came To My Senses." On the cynical "Never Tell Her You Love Her" (unless she's three thousand miles away) he brandishes a wit and bright and sharp as his cutting trumpet work. The title track, Randy explains, actually emanated from a piece he wrote 30 years ago. "Believe it or not, part of that tune is a sample of an original demo that we did when I was in a band called Dreams with Will Lee, Mike, Barry Rogers and Don Grolnick (circa 1973). It was originally intended for Dreams' third record, which never ha-pp-ened. I had a cassette copy of that demo and gave it to George (Whitty), who sampled a portion of it and looped it. It has a really good horn line that was jammed up by Barry Rogers and Mike back in 1970. So it's a kind of interesting retrospective, but then we also built it up and modernized it. But the core of that tune is still there nearly 30 years later."
While most of the tunes on Hangin' in the City celebrate the hustle and grit of urban life, the notable exception here is "I Talk To The Trees", a decidedly more lyrical offering that showcases some on Randy's more reflective verse along with his gorge-ous flugelhorn tone. "That was written in the country, in East Hampton", he explains. "The lyrics came about from sitting in my backyard alone for a period of days...and that's what came out. And the sound of just nature, the sound of wind blowing in the trees. I remember during that period I had been out there for a couple of weeks....you start going a little wacko. If I have a couple of weeks off, especially in the summer, I'll go out there with my laptop and work on stuff."
The album also features some scintillating instrumental numbers in "Wayne Out" (inspired by the post-Weather Report music of Wayne Shorter), the dreamy ballad "I've Been Through This Before" and the poignant "Pastoral (To Jaco)," a heartfelt homage to his former friend and colleague, Jaco Pastorius. "That tune features a disguised motif from Jaco's 'Three Views of a Secret' and another of his tunes called 'Okonkole y Trompa'," Randy explains. "Mike and I kind of play it out of time so nobody notices it. The rest of the tune just reminded me of something that Jaco might write. I didn't have him in mind when I wrote it but after we played it I thought of the title 'Pastoral' and we added those Jacoesque snippets at the end on the fade."
"Seattle," also bears a familiar Randy Brecker signature. " It's also got the usual Brecker kind of polytone thing happening. I like writing things that have denser harmony but kind of simpler melodies, where the harmony is kind of 'out' but it's still very singable. This one works well that way, and I also like the fact that it's more sparse than some of the other stuff on the album." The seeds for Randy's musical ideas for this project were shaped by producer-key-boardist George Whitty, who has presided over recent recordings by Mike and Leni Stern. "George is really a good drum programmer as well as being an all-around techno guy and player," says Randy. "He's a master at this stuff and I was kind of a novice doing it. Some of the sequences that I gave he left intact and built on top of them or he'd take them and rework them. It was a process of working together like that over a long period of time. He'd do it for a while and then he'd have other projects and I had other things I was doing, and we'd eventually get back to it."
As he luxuriates in the funk of Hangin' in the City , Randy's other musical side remains quite active. In the past year he has made several apperances at festivals and around New York with the Trumpet Summit (also featuring Jon Faddis, Lew Soloff and Terrell Stafford), as a member of the Mingus Big Band and as a "That's also a big part of me," he says of his hard boppish tendencies. "I've already got a bunch of new tunes written in that style. I've got a whole library of sextet stuff that I want to document somehow."
Meanwhile, says Randy, "I hope people take it this record the right way. It's all done tongue-in-cheek. It's supposed to be comedic, it's supposed to make people laugh but at the same time we're all seriously playing. It was a lot of work and I hope people understand what's behind it."
Author: Bill Milkowski