See Steve's Hand-Written Solo transcription
In one sense, it shouldn't have come as a surprise when, during one of our periodic phone conversations, this one between 1998-99, Michael Brecker told me that he was planning to make an "organ" album. We both knew why this was in his mind. And yes, it went right back to "UNITY." Michael's "TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE"(Verve) now stands as a modern day classic too. Joined by Larry Goldings(organ); Pat Metheny(guitar); and three fantastic drummers: Bill Stewart; Jeff "Tain" Watts; and, of course, how could you do a recording like this without including Elvin Jones too? This was also to be the 2nd of Michael's recordings produced by someone other than his closest friend, Don Grolnick. The sadness over missing Don, remains with all of us to this day. So, this time, keyboardist George Whitty capably handled the production duties.
At some point during 2014, I had to take a serious break from everything involved with my own new recording, "SUBTEXT," and try to get away from that music, and those sounds. I can't pinpoint a specific reason as to why I gravitated to Larry Goldings' great tune, "Sound Off" from Michael Brecker's "TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE" album, but, that's where I went, and the rewards for the soul were immense. I had been asked by a European Jazz magazine to write a remembrance of Michael, and I decided to include a transcription. At that moment, nothing seemed more appropriate than presenting Mike's solo on "Sound Off." As I began to listen to the tune, more from an analytical perspective, and not so much for pure enjoyment and appreciation, I noticed some interesting things. As a big fan of Larry Goldings' music, and his great trio with Peter Bernstein(guitar) and Bill Stewart(drums), I felt that I knew and understood Larry's writing pretty well. Virtually all of his very wonderful and intelligent compositions reveal solo formats that are very much connected to prior melodic material, often observing traditional Jazz forms and formats as well. But, "Sound Off" was really different, and it took me awhile to actually understand just what was going on with the solo format, because it was SO very different from the head. I decided to place the rehearsal letters in the following manner so that one chorus would look like this:
[B] - 8 bars
[A2] - 16 bars
[B] - 8 bars
[C] - 8 bars [Tag]
As I was preparing the transcription, I wanted to make certain that I was in the right zone with the work that I was doing, so I reached out via e-mail to Larry, and we had some wonderful exchanges about Michael, about the recording, and more specifically about "Sound Off." Larry probably employed a different manner of labeling the sections, but, I am comfortable with the way that I have presented the piece here. Please allow me to let you read a wonderful anecdote that Larry shared with me in an e-mail about this tune, and more specifically about the solo format, and the changes as they greatly varied from the head:
"Those were always my chords, and Mike didn't make any changes to them. I must say that, I struggled with writing the blowing section, and I had a few other versions, before I arrived at this one. The vast majority of my tunes have improvising sections that are based on the harmonic structure of the song, whereas Sound Off is not. Frankly, I was still not satisfied with what I ended-up with, in terms of the blowing - Until I heard Mike play on it. He loved everything about it from the time I brought it to his house in Westchester, NY. I remember it so well, because I was so blown away by his encouragement, not to mention how instantaneously he devoured the piece in every way. He also relished the challenge of playing the last [A] melody in the altissimo range of his horn. I can see him laughing the first time he went for it. I think that most saxophonists would feel uncomfortable up there, but for Mike, it was just another way to challenge himself - he lived for that! I'm sure that everyone who knew him can cite an example of something that Mike was newly immersed in. He was the most curious and studious musician I knew. And, of course, due to his healthy dose of humility, even after all his exhaustive research into something, he never thought he was doing much more than skimming the surface." - Larry Goldings (July 13th, 2014)
and so, with that very personal remembrance from Larry, I think that we're now ready to talk about Mike's brilliant 3-chorus solo.
During the [A] sections of the melody, the tune is fundamentally in and around Fm7 with some clever touches around the ending of each phrase. At the very least, the 16-bar [A] sections of the solo are still very connected to Fm7, but alternate between 8 bars of that same Fm7 and 8 bars of Am7. It is a bit of an unusual harmonic movement when the second chord, especially in minor, contains what would be the major 3rd(A) of the prior chord. But this is certainly not too great a challenge for any of these superb players. As most experienced and self-confident players would do, Chorus 1 to Mike's solo begins in a most lyrical manner, sticking to notes that all fall within the F Dorian mode[F, G, Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb] with no chromaticism at all. Then, the first time that the Am7 chord change arrives, Mike leaves a large 2-bar space before playing a very angular line filled with 4ths and 5ths. Though he is only using certain scale or modal degrees, the line still is drawn from A Dorian[A, B, C, D, E, F#, G]. When Fm7 returns in bar 9, the lines retain the lyrical flavor of the the 1st 4 bars. When the Am7 returns for bars 13-16, the harmonic complexity goes up a bit. Again, bar 2 sticks to notes within A Dorian, but in bar 3, Mike begins to dance around the tonal center by alluding to G Dorian[G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F] for 2 beats, and then, what I hear as, Bb Dorian[Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab] for 3 beats. Finally, he transitions to chromatic lines derived from either A altered dominant or Bb melodic minor[Bb, C , Db, Eb, F, G, A] over the A7(alt.) chord in bar 16. In that bar, you can hear Larry playing G-C#-F spelling up, for an A7#5 sound. I have to speak about the great art of accompaniment, which is why Larry Goldings is the perfect choice for this recording. Notice that, as Mike's solo began, Larry left the 1st 4 bars completely open, and all you hear is his walking bass line. When the Am7 chord arrives, the highly stylized voicings that you hear, spelling up go from G-C-E to A-D-G. Where the organ is concerned, you certainly might associate this left-hand style with Larry Young, but from the piano perspective, to these ears, it all goes back to McCoy Tyner.
As the solo hits [B] for the 1st time, and Dm7 arrives with Larry playing F-C-E-G, Mike is playing, as one might expect, notes derived from D Dorian[D, E, F, G, A, B, C]. As he hits the Ebmaj6/9 chord, he takes another nice breather, and you can hear Larry playing voicings in 4ths behind him: G-C-F to F-Bb-Eb. Again, this is perfect for the style, and gives the piece the essential elements for creating "mood" and "attitude"!!! For the 1st bar-and-a-half, as Dm7 returns, Mike is still in the D Dorian area, but on beat 3 of bar 6 of this section, he shifts over to a fragment that we could say that he was either in Eb Dorian[Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C, Db] or, he was just transitioning to the coming chord of Dbmaj6/9. Both scales/modes contain the same pitches. But, it's the subtle touch of chromaticism from Bb-Gb-F-E-natural to Eb on the downbeat that gives the line its flavor. The chords, Dbmaj6/9 to Gbmaj7#4, in bar 7-8 of the section do actually mirror harmonies that appear briefly in the melody of the tune.
With the arrival of [A2], Mike leaves another nice space for a breath, but when he begins to play again, he picks-up the rhythmic fragment that he had played in the last bar of [B] as he ascends straight up F Dorian from the root. When he descends from C-natural, the rhythm of the line becomes more syncopated as he transitions beautifully to Am7. In bar 2, he again leaves a space before beginning his first long stream of running 8th notes. Until beat 3 of bar 8 of this section, he is still playing consonantly within A Dorian, but you can see and hear the transition back to Fm7 with the last 4 notes: Bb-Ab-G-Gb, and then landing on F-natural, the root, for the Fm7 chord. As this stream of running 8th-notes spans some 11 bars, sometimes I feel that it can be rather absurd to analyze what I might believe is happening during the flow of the line. But, there can be times when I hear something, and see it in a particular way, that I almost can believe that I have come to an understanding that I might not have had before. I have even changed the way I spelled a part of this line to better reflect the possible harmonic thinking involved. Again, at this level of playing, no one is thinking about anything, you're just in the flow of the music with your bandmates, and that's it! So, from bar 9, in 4-note groupings, I see Mike passing through these areas, 2 beats for each: Fm7-Dbm7-Ebm7-Em7-Ebm7-Dm7-Ebmaj9. However, the phrase in bar 12, which I labeled as Ebmaj9 contains notes that are all part of F Dorian too. So, in a sense, Mike has snaked his way back to where he started. In bar 13, as the Am7 returns, the line becomes much more consonant and built around fairly traditional Jazz-oriented chromatic language. As he works his way towards the A7(alt.) chord in bar 16, you can see, in the 2 beats that precede it, he outlines a Bbm7(F-Db-Bb-Ab) chord which fits right into the thinking that Bb melodic minor and A altered dominant 7th scale are exactly the same. Notice that on the last 2 beats of bar 16, he was already transitioning to the coming Dm7 chord by playing: E-F-A-C.
As we hit the 2nd appearance of [B] for Chorus 1, over the Dm7 chord, he plays a short melodic phrase, and then takes a breath. Then, the phrase from the Ebmaj6/9 to the Dm7 using chordal extensions: A-C-F over the 1st chord, becomes a motif which carries through thematically, and leads him right into the initial appearance of letter [C], which functions as a little [Tag] to the solo form, and introduces some fresh harmonic areas. The first two changes, 2 bars each, Cm7 to Bmaj7#4, Mike negotiates individually using C Dorian[C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb] and B Lydian[B, C#, D#, E#, F#, G#, A#] as a guide. The grouping of triplets in bar 3 of the section going between the major 7th(A#) and chromatically up and back from the 9th(C#), is a very traditional part of the Jazz chromatic language over major 7th chords. As the next group of chord changes appears, one bar each, over the Bbm7 chord, the notes are derived from Bb Dorian[Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab]. Over the D7(#9) chord, you see the same configuration, Bb-Gb-F-E-natural to Eb that appeared in bar 6 of the 1st [B] section. Again, you could view this as the same kind of relationship between Eb melodic minor[Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C, D] and D altered dominant. They contain the same notes too, and, when talking about music in quiet moments, Mike did like to view things this way. In other words, the melodic minor scale 1/2-step above the root of the altered dominant 7th chord was his point of orientation. In bar 7 of this go-round for letter [C], I hear the chord as being Gm7b5, but I view Mike's line configuration there as having more to do with Db Dorian[Db, Eb, Fb, Gb, Ab, Bb, Cb] than with the more expected Bb Dorian[Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab]. For bar 8, over the C7(alt.) chord, he makes a nice transition back to Fm7, even though the line at the top sounds more like C half-tone/whole-tone diminished[C, Db, Eb, E, Gb, G, A, Bb] than the expected C altered dominant scale. The presence of the A-natural, the major 3rd of the coming Fm7 chord, is considered a strange note choice when cadencing to minor!!! But here, in the hands of this masterful improviser, it sounds perfectly fine!!!
As Chorus 2 begins, Mike's lines over the Fm7 stay in and around the F Dorian area. Also, in bars 1-2 we begin to see the special devices, particular to the saxophone, beginning to appear. I'm referring to Mike's usage of playing the same note with alternate fingerings. As bar 5 and the Am7 chord arrive, I really like the way Mike's line transitions to the new chord, but after the chord has already been played. Then, on beat 3 of bar 6, there's a classic tenor sax honk on a low A-natural which leads to a line born of A Dorian, but with the tail-end of phrase, Eb-F, being completely out of the tonal area, and perhaps, just perhaps, intuitively related to the Fm7 that's coming? Bar 8, to these ears, seems to pass through a Bbm7 area, which is the iv chord Fm7. But this line finishes with E-natural-F#, which is a half-step above, and this is exactly how the line over Am7 ended. Again, phrasing, swingin' phrasing, notice how many phrases of Mike's have already ended with the last two notes being LONG-SHORT!!! This, to me, is the essence of swingin' Jazz phrasing. If you've ever played in a big band, and gone through the parts of the brass and reed players, especially the lead trumpet and the lead alto sax books, you would have seen how many of their phrases are marked that way!!! In the end, the drums, and the whole band pick-up a players swing from how the phrases end. No, that's not all of it, but it is a HUGE part!!! For the last 8 bars of [A], Mike returns to another long line of streaming 8th-notes. If you look at bars 9-10 of the section, even though he's playing over an Fm7 chord, the line seems to indicate that he's still utilizing elements of the Am7 area, right up until the Eb on beat 3 of bar 10. As it was with the long line during Chorus 1, I tend to view this kind of linear construction as groupings of 4 notes, 2-beats each, that may or may not touch upon certain harmonic areas. For example, in bar 11, in the 2nd-half of the bar, we see the classic configuration[1-2-3-5], often associated with John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," and here we have B-C#-D#-F#. Does that indicate Bmaj for a moment? In bar 12, the next configuration of F-E-natural-Eb-G, looks like a chromatic piece often played over Cm7. But the last two beats of the bar appear to be indicating a move back to A Dorian, as we see: E-F#-G-A-B and up to D. As the line turns down to a Db, it almost sounds like he is working his way to Cm7. But then, at the end of bar 14 into 15, you see the same line from bar 12 in retrograde: E-F#-G-A to F-E-natural-Eb-G. Finally, he outlines an A7 augmented triad, before landing on a G-natural for the A7(alt.) chord!!! Again, sometimes all the analyzing becomes rather silly! Mike always seemed to humbly describe himself as an "intuitive" player more than a cerebral or schooled one. Who can argue with the results of his body of work? But being around him so much during the '70s, I never saw anyone work harder at his craft than Mike!!!
The first [B] section of this chorus, with the change of chords and feeling, Mike returns to more motivic playing, using chord tones and syncopated rhythms while vaulting each time to the upper register of his horn. In bars 7-8, using broken chordal elements for both Dbmaj7 and Gbmaj7#4, it's really more about the swinging nature of his time feel, than the specific notes!
With the return of [A2], there's a brief moment, where Mike uses the long-short rhythms as a motif while playing in F Dorian for the 1st 2-1/2 bars before again touching upon E-F#, and holding out that F#. Remember, he seemed to favor these pitches in bar 9 of the first [A] of this chorus. In bar 4 of this section, I see the chromatic line passing from F-E-Eb-D-Db as being related to Bbm7. He makes an ever-so-brief nod to the coming Am7 chord by playing G-natural down to an E-natural on the downbeat! From there, another adventure with a string of running 8th-notes begins. From the F-natural on and-of beat 1 up to the high Eb, I still see this as being related to Bbm7[F-G-Ab-Bb-C-Db-Eb], even though he's playing over Am7. Finally in bar 2, and the 1st-half of bar 3, he is back in the consonant world of Am7. However, on beat 3 of bar 7, I see those particular 4 notes[F, G, Ab, Bb] as being related to Fm7. Considering that he is headed back to Fm7, bar 8 is in a strange area, the first 2 beats do seem to be connected to Am7, but on beats 3 and 4, he clearly spells out an A augmented triad[A-F-C#-A]. Even if you chose to view this as F augmented or C# augmented, intellectually speaking, it seems like a strange way to get to Fm7, especially with those A-naturals in there! When Fm7 does return, the lines do take on the shape of F Dorian, with all the appropriate and expected chromaticism. I especially like the string of 8th-notes in bars 10 and 11, and in particular, where the line of Eb-D-Bb-G appears. It just sounds so great as he comes to the end of this long phrase! Finally, for the last 8 bars of the section, over the Am7 chord, he vaults into the phrase with syncopated 8th-note upbeats headed for his upper register and a high A-natural. But from there, if you want to inspect the notes, he seems to descend via an Eb augmented triad, and the phrase closes out with a simple Eb triad. Is that Eb triad, a b5 substitute for the A7(alt.) chord that is to come? I suppose it depends on how one chooses to hear it. As the final A7(alt.) chord arrives in bar 16, again the line is derived from A altered dominant or, depending upon your orientation, Bb melodic minor, though I spelled the notes in terms of A7(altered).
As the 2nd letter [B] arrives for this chorus, Mike plays a very traditional line configuration for m7 chords, and in D minor, it looks like this: E-F-A-C. As he ascends to a high G-natural, this same line appears in both bars 1 and 5 of the section. Over the Ebmaj6/9 chord, he is using Eb Lydian[Eb, F, G, A, Bb, C, D], as you can see the A-naturals as part of the line in bar 3. In bars 7-8, over the Dbmaj7(#11) chord, Mike's line begins with another great honk on a low Bb, but most of the line that follows is derived from using F minor pentatonic[F, Ab, Bb(6th), C(maj7th), Eb(9th)], which, over a major 7th chord, gives you the great color tones. Finally, it's interesting to note that, on the last 2 beats of bar 8, as he plays Eb-C-A-F, with that A-natural, and an F7 arpeggio, he is already anticipating the arrival of the Cm7 chord as we hit letter [C] for this chorus. Over the first 4 bars, he begins another sequence of long-short phrases, this time in 3rds, and, following the flow of the line, when he arrives at the Bmaj7#4 chord, he plays E-G#, with the E-natural not being part of the B Lydian mode. It's a very characteristic Brecker device with the E-natural sounding out there because it's sitting on such a fat part of the beat. Remember, if you like the way this sounds, it appears within the flow of the line! Mike didn't force it to be there! With bar 4, he does arrive at two consonant notes: F#-A#. It's really about swingin' and just intuitively allowing the line to guide you to a point of resolution. This time in bar 7, I hear Larry playing G-Db-F which give the G7 a b5 oriented sound before passing to C7(#9#5) in bar 8. Again, over a dominant 7th chord that is passing to resolution on a m7th chord, Fm7, it's a bit strange to see an A-natural in the first half of the bar, but that is quickly followed by an F minor triad that leads him into the Fm7 and the next chorus.
With the arrival of Chorus 3 and letter [A], the intensity picks up quickly, and another long line begins and it is filled wotj saxophonistic acrobatics born of the post-Coltrane era. Listening and viewing the lines, there seems to be a blues-based quality to them if you think of the F blues scale[F, Ab, Bb, B, C, Eb] in a particular way. Against Fm7, the note that really hits you hard is the A-natural that appears on beat 1 of bar 3. Brother Randy Brecker loved to use the major 3rd, on occasion, against minor chords. It really took some time for me to get used to hearing that. Mike's line finally serpentines its way to resolution on Am7 with a moment of consonance, but on beat 3 of bar 5, you see: Eb-F#-G-A, and the presence of that Eb is also really striking. The line finally concludes on a G#, the maj7th of A minor. This is a very common pitch to hear in the genre. Then, thank goodness, Mike takes a nice breath between bars 6-7 before another line begins using the 5th-R-2nd-5th configuration of notes with an alternate fingering thrown-in for good measure! As he returns to Fm7, and here we see a grouping of notes very similar to what he had played on the Dm7 in the last [B] section of Chorus 2. In this tonal area, he plays G(2nd)-Ab(m3rd)-C(5th)-Eb(7th)-G(9th)-Bb(11th) as a soaring arpeggio landing on the high, off the horn, Bb which he hits four times! Then, yet again, while we're still over Fm7, Mike introduces the A-natural, but at least this time, it's a bit closer to the arrival of Am7. However, right on the downbeat of bar 13, he's playing a C# against Am7, again the major 3rd in a really fat part of the bar. But, all of this is somehow leading towards a vault up to another, off the horn, high A-natural before falling down an octave via A-G-Eb-A!!! Then, he takes another brief breath in bar 15, before negotiating the A7(alt.) chord with a traditional line that could be viewed as coming out of the A altered dominant scale or Bb melodic minor. How this is viewed just depends upon your own personal theoretical orientation.
Thematically speaking, letter [B] begins by revisiting the same line over Dm7 that Mike played in the prior [B] section, except now he vaults even higher, hitting both A and C. He eventually descends in nice staccato quarter-notes: G-F-D-C-A which indicate to me that he's putting to use D minor pentatonic[D(maj7th), F(9th), G, A(#4), C(6th)] against the Ebmaj6/9 chord, and this gives you ALL of the possible color tones! The resolution to the Dm7, though brief, has a bluesy feel to it before giving way to a bar of rest in bar 2. Over the Dbmaj6/9 chord I see that he's playing notes again from F minor pentatonic[F, Ab, Bb(6th), C(maj7th), Eb(9th)] just as he did in the prior [B] section. But here, as the line flows into the Gbmaj7#4 chord in bar 8, the inclusion of the C-natural gives you the #4 color over this 2nd chord. It's a wonderful way to sustain both linear and harmonic continuity with your lines.
[A2], and its Fm7 chord in bars 1-4, features Mike using a D-natural more than before during this solo. If you look at the sequence of 7th chords within F Dorian, from 2nd degree, G-natural, you would produce Gm7[G-Bb-D-F], obviously all those tones are within the same mode, but, in context, this gives a different flavor to the shape and sound of the overall line, and the D-natural is a big part of that. You can see that, in the 2nd half of bar 4, Mike makes a wonderful transition by anticipating the arrival of the Am7 chord as he transits from: F-D-Bb-G to E-C-A-E. In bar 6, he begins a phrase, again using groupings of 3 against the cut-time feel, and leading into bar 9 and the return of Fm7. All the while, he's adjusting the groupings to reflect the changing sonorities. However, because of the nature of the grouping shape, he is including a Db, which is not part of F Dorian. Here, I think to search for some analytical means of "making sense" of this by, perhaps, explaining it as Bb minor against or over the Fm7 chord, is reaching too far, and the thrust of the line is really all that matters. For me, as one who spent so much time playing with Mike, and more than that, spending hours in airplanes, cars, vans, buses talking about music and the philosophical aspects of making music together, I remember that he and Don Grolnick were not too crazy about the whole band going with them when they got into some kind of rhythmical idea. So, it was fascinating to me that, at the end of bar 10, Mike just stopped playing this phrase, took a breath, and went on to something else. I think it was just his instinct to do that. Obviously, he LOVED playing with everyone on this recording!!! It's just that sometimes, shit happens, and you have to keep going!!! In bars 11-12, Mike makes a great transition out of the Fm7, and heads toward the Am7 chord, and, as he did at the beginning of [A2] when he featured the 6th(D) over the Fm7 chord, here he puts to use F# against the Am7 chord in a similar way. But because of the alternate fingering device in bar 13, he is making much more of that pitch than before! In bar 15, I love how he passes through Bb minor with the major 7(A-natural) on his way to anticipating the arrival of Dm7 by already being there in bar 16. Again, somewhere internally, was he using Bb melodic minor to create the sense of A7(alt.) to get to the coming chord change? This seems to have a sense of his intuitive logic to me!
As he leads into the final [B] section of this wondrous solo, the line configuration in bar 16 is the same as we have seen several times over Dm7: E-F-A-C!!! Needless to say, this configuration of notes was singing to Mike on those days! In this section, he's placing a bit more emphasis on the note G-natural, especially with all the pronounced alternate fingerings, which puts what he's playing totally in a world that can only belong to the tenor sax. What a great instrument in the hands of player like Michael Brecker!!! Throughout the 8 bars of [B], he maintains this technique as a thematic device. When I hear this saxophone technique, I am always reminded of the classic tune, "Half and Half," which was composed by baritone saxophonist Charles Davis, and appears on the 1963 Elvin Jones/Jimmy Garrison Sextet album titled, "ILLUMINATION"(Impulse). Take a listen! What do you think? As the lines slide into the final [C] section of the solo, the accented groupings of 3 have returned, and Mike negotiates the Cm7 bars and the Bmaj7#4 bars by placing emphasis on A-natural first, and then on A# as the chord change comes. He ascends to a C-natural which becomes his pivot tone to begin playing over the Bbm7 chord. Over both the D7(#9) and the Dbmaj6/9 chords in bars 6-7 of the section, you'll notice the presence of an Eb triad[Eb-G-Bb]. It too is fascinating because G-natural, the 4th, is not a note usually played over an altered dominant 7th chord. But, it is the #4 of the Dbmaj7 chord that is to come. So, is he just ignoring one chord and moving on to the next one before it actually arrives? Possibly, why not, if that's where your line is taking you!!! The solo closes out with a classic line configuration over the C7(#9) sound, and descends down a C augmented triad that never resolves itself to any note related to Fm7. He leaves that downbeat empty as Larry Goldings' great organ solo begins.
I wanted to take a moment and talk about the audio, hi-fi presentation of music like this, and how we, as music fans, Jazz fans perceive it. Firstly, if we go back and look closely at the wonderful sound of Larry Young's "UNITY"(Blue Note) album, as recorded and mixed by Rudy Van Gelder, the panning is fascinating. Elvin Jones' drums are hard right, and if you hear anything on the left side, it is only the leakage getting into Woody Shaw's trumpet mic. Woody Shaw's trumpet is hard left, and Joe Henderson's tenor sax is hard right. You can hear a bit of leakage getting from one player's horn into the other's mic. Larry Young's organ is in the center. Many would say that this is the classic "old school" way of presenting Jazz. Few of us, even the most ardent fans, realize that most of the great albums were presented with the drums being hard right, nothing except leakage on the left side!!! That's what most of us have been used to hearing, even if we didn't realize it.
I consulted with engineer James Farber about the sound design for "TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE" and his memories were not too precise as to exactly what the discussions were like before committing to a panning perspective for the recording. But, in the end, the music was presented this way: Mike's tenor sax is left of center, but not truly hard left. Pat Metheny's guitar is right of center, but not truly hard right. Jeff "Tain" Watts' drums are in stereo, and presented from the "drummer's perspective" - with the ride cymbal on the right side and the hi-hat on the left side. It's a matter of taste, but having once been a drummer, I love this perspective. And finally, Larry Goldings' organ is in the center of the mix. It is another way to present this kind of music, but both recordings sound wonderful to me!
As an advocate for hard panning, when a great artist like Michael Brecker would resist such a notion, James Farber would always say the following to him:
Sitting here, as winter 2014-15 draws nearer, it remains hard to imagine that nearly 8 years have come and gone since Michael Brecker passed away. Like all his friends, I miss our conversations, the occasional extended phone call, the terse and very amusing e-mails. I miss the wisdom of his counsel during times of great difficulty. Mostly, I guess I just miss knowing that he was out there somewhere, enjoying his life, his family, and music. Like his many, many fans, I miss the anticipation of getting to hear something new coming from his imagination on a just released CD. Oh well, I still just miss him!!!
In closing, as we always do at this time of the year, Blaine and I hope that everyone had a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Y por supuesto, les deseamos un muy ¡FELIZ NAVIDAD y FELIZ AÑO NUEVO! Wishing you all continued good health, happiness, and somehow some way, let us all enjoy PEACE everywhere!!! We can hope so, right?
[Photos: Michael Brecker @ Avatar Studios, by Darryl Pitt
Larry Goldings by John Rogers
Jeff "Tain" Watts courtesy of Yair Spiegel]