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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke

Michael Brecker
Nearness of You
The Ballad Book

Verve 549 705 2
  1. Chan's Song
  2. Don't Let Me be Lonely Tonight
  3. Nascente
  4. Midnight Mood
  5. The Nearness of You
  6. Incandescence
  7. Sometimes I See
  8. My Ship
  9. Always
  10. Seven Days
  11. I Can See Your Dreams
Michael Brecker - Tenor  Pat Metheny - Guitar  Herbie Hancock - Piano  Charlie Haden - Bass  Jack DeJohnette - Drums  James Taylor - Vocals (2&6)  Recorded New York December 2000, Produced by Pat Methany.

When I read of the release of this album, I could not wait to hear it, the people involved are all 'out of the top drawer' and I have not heard Michael Brecker on a record dedicated to ballads. It is a however a quirky album, I sometimes wonder if my expectations go so high that no one could fill them. Good a singer as he is, what is the point of the two James Taylor tracks on an album of Michael Brecker playing ballads? It is not even as though he solos at length on them, they sound like two tracks from a James Taylor CD, that have got into the wrong album. As you would expect the musical ability of the Quintet is stunning, Michael Brecker has tone and technique that has rarely been matched by anyone, Herbie Hancock has been for sometime, the current most outstanding pianist. Pat Metheny is a genius of the guitar, even if like me you feel he makes too much use of effects and Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette are known to best the best around. I suspect that the problem is to do with the choice of the programme, when you review all the wonderful ballads that are around, how did a 4/4 version of 'Always' make it a top choice? As a ballad 'My Ship' is a better choice, but even that would not make most peoples favourite list of ballads. 'Midnight Mood' I enjoyed, it should be played more often, but 'Incandescence' and 'Sometimes I See' don't grab me as premier ballad material, even if the group members wrote them.

Overall this is a very good album, but somehow from musicians of this calibre I expected more, I listened again recently to the album the Stan Getz Quartet made in Copenhagen, on a live session on Stan's last tour before he died. There are ballad performances to die for. I feel sure that Michael Breckers band is capable of music of equal quality or perhaps even more. It is also interesting that on that album the Getz and Brecker tones are similar, who influenced whom? Or is that the way the Tenor Sax should sound!

Don Mather

Don Mather is a saxophone player and Bandleader in Coventry


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