MICHAEL BRECKER QUARTET
With his new Time Is of the Essence (Verve), saxophone colossus Michael Brecker bestrides two shores: the album's organ and guitar make it his funkiest of the 90s, yet it's also true to the complexities of John Coltrane's music, circa Giant Steps. Coltrane has always been his biggest influence, but Brecker stepped out of his shadow long ago; since then he's used his idol's permuted scales and extended harmonies to create a distinct style that's proved almost as influential. In fact, at this point Brecker has his own acolytes, tenor men still seeking their own voices who've absorbed some part of his broad, sweet tone and jaw-dropping technique. His swirling, superheated solos simultaneously fulfill the mature promise of jazz fusion and transcend the genre: Brecker has actually crossed back over, injecting postbop jazz with fusion's strengths. And on the new disc he blends his versatile tone into Larry Goldings's organ textures in a way that recalls storied Blue Note dates of the 60s and 70s. The accessible music on Time Is of the Essence would be the perfect introduction to Brecker's tornadic tenor, if it still needed introducing. But most listeners, even those who don't know Brecker by name or through his gigs with Horace Silver or the Brecker Brothers in the 70s, have heard at least one of the literally hundreds of high-profile pop and rock records he's played on--through which he's essentially defined the tenor sax in late-20th-century American music. Brecker's touring quartet features the effortless brilliance of Goldings and the slippery inspirations of Idris Muhammad on drums; Muhammad doesn't appear on the record, but in John Scofield's mid-90s quartet this pair worked hand in glove. Pat Metheny plays guitar on the album, but here Adam Rogers has the unenviable task of filling his shoes. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, next Friday and Saturday, December 3 and 4, 9 and 11 PM, and next Sunday, December 5, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Sann.