When Grammy® award-winning saxophonist Michael Brecker passed away in 2007 due to complications from leukemia, the jazz and music community at large lost a giant on the instrument. Brecker had, over the course of his decades-long career created unique music with some of the biggest names in the business, as well as his own brother, and gained fans around the world as well as various accolades and awards. On March 17, 2019, the jazz group, Charged Particles paid tribute to Brecker’s legacy through a performance held at the Baked Potato in Los Angeles, California. That performance was released on CD Oct. 8 through Summit Records. The nine-song set is a concert that Brecker’s fans and jazz fans alike will agree is a fitting tribute to the late great musician. That is due in part to the concert’s set list, which will be examined shortly. The liner notes that accompany the recording’s physical release add even more to its appeal and will be discussed a little later. The recording’s production rounds out its most important elements and will also be examined later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the presentation. All things considered, they make the recording a welcome tribute to the legacy left behind by Michael Brecker.
Charged Particle’s recently released live recording, Live at the Baked Potato is a work that most if not all audiences will agree is a fitting tribute to the legacy of saxophonist Michael Brecker. Its success comes in part through its featured set list. The one hour, 12 minute set list is not necessarily a career-defining presentation of Brecker and his work. It is slightly limited, but still does an honorable job of representing what continues to make Brecker so respected even to this day. That is because it shows the diverse range of sounds and styles that continues to make Brecker so respected to this day. The set list reaches as far back as 1981 and the Steps album on which he performed, Smokin’ in the Pit and as recently 2007 and his final album, Pilgrimage. Along the way, the set list also pulls from Brecker’s 1988 album, Don’t Try This at Home (the earliest of his albums as a band leader represented here), 1994’s Out of the Loop (which was a Brecker Brothers album) and 1996’s Tales from the Hudson just to name a few. Simply put, the set list is not necessarily limited to just one specific time period of Becker’s career even as close in time as many of the releases are. At the same time they also lift from a variety of his projects as a band leader, side man and otherwise. Keeping all of this in mind, the set list featured in this recording sets a solid foundation for this tribute to Brecker and his career. It is just one part of what makes the recording successful. The booklet that accompanies the recording’s physical release adds its own enjoyment to the mix, too.
The booklet that accompanies the recording in its physical release is important because of the background that its liner notes provide on the featured concert. The notes in question were penned by Bill Milkowsi, who has contributed to Downbeat magazine and Absolute Sounds magazine. Additionally, he is the author of the book, Ode to a Tenor Titan: The Life and Times and Music of Michael Brecker. Milkowski opens his notes by pointing out the role of saxophonist Todd Dickow, who tackles Brecker’s compositions in the featured concert. Dickow is immediately lauded for his own performance of said songs. He is humble as he is quoted talking about taking on the songs, too, noting, “It’s not really like I ever tried to imitate him. I just know that some of the devices that he used have become a part of my playing…So he’s always been a model of perfection to try and achieve.”
Dickow’s comments and the note of his performance is just part of what makes the background in the booklet so interesting. The liner notes also offer background on the current iteration of Charged Particles, noting that the current lineup first performed together with Dickow on tenor sax on Dec. 3, 2015. So knowing this, it’s not like the concert featured here is the first time that Dickow had performed with the group. That is important to note because it helps audiences understand why it seems that there is such wonderful chemistry between the group’s members. From there, Milkowski proceeds to set the scene for the concert, outlining the best parts of each song from one to the next, all while paying tribute to the rest of the group along the way, too. The picture that Milkowski paints through his description is so rich and does so well to prepare audiences for the concert that is featured in the recording’s disc. It leaves one realizing that audiences would do best to read through Milkowski’s writings before taking in the concert. It will allow audiences to even better appreciation the group’s work. Even as much as the liner notes do to enhance the listening experience for Live at the Baked Potato, it is just one more part of what makes the recording successful. The recording’s production puts the finishing touch to its presentation.
The production featured in Live at the Baked Potato is important because it results in such well-balanced audio throughout. From one song to the next, Dickow’s performances shine, as Milkowski notes in his liner notes. At the same time though, his performances never overpower the work of his fellow musicians. Each performer’s part is expertly balanced with that of his counterparts to make sure that each man gets his rightful attention. What’s more, it also takes into account, the acoustics in The Baked Potato to make sure that the group’s performances are not lost or even overpowering at any point. The result is that even on CD, the concert gives audiences the best seat in the house, fully immersing them in the concert and its environment. When the production is taken into full account as part of the whole of the recording’s presentation, it puts the finishing touch to the recording and shows once more why it is such a fitting tribute to Brecker and an equally enjoyable concert in itself.
Charged Particles’ recently released live recording, Live at the Baked Potato is a successful new offering from the group. Its success comes in part through its featured set list. The set list in question is not career-defining, but it does succeed in introducing audiences to Brecker’s catalog. At the same time, it also presents more familiar audiences with some beloved, well-known works from Brecker. The booklet that accompanies the recording’s physical release is also important to the recording’s presentation. That is because of the background that it offers. From explaining saxophonist Todd Dickow’s role in the performance, to laying the groundwork for the concert and more, the booklet’s liner notes do well in setting the scene for the concert. The concert’s production rounds out its most important elements. That is because it ensures that every audio element therein is expertly balanced. The result of the work that went into the production is that audiences get the best seat in the house, even on CD. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the recording. All things considered, they make the recording a fitting tribute to Michael Brecker and an equally enjoyable live recording in general.
Live at the Baked Potato is available now through Summit Records. More information on this and other titles from Summit Records is available online at:
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