Elements of pop, funk and R&B have always been a part of the Brecker Brothers' sound. But last night, when trumpeter Randy Brecker visited One Step Down, along with a local trio, the focus was straight-ahead jazz and the result was refreshing, to say the least.
Brecker divided his time between ballads and burners, producing an aptly amber tone for "Autumn Leaves" at one point and a piercing, fulgent tone for "Footprints" moments later. In both cases, his phrasing was crisp and assertive, but the ballads shone most brightly. "My Funny Valentine," for example, possessed a warm lyricism despite the many liberties Brecker took with its original theme. Throughout he evening, neither Brecker's technique nor his sensitivity to the standard jazz repertoire was ever in doubt.
These tunes also gave the rhythm section ample room to stretch out: Pianist Marc Cohen and bassist Drew Gress worked hand in glove on their improvisations, complementing each other in a wonderfully melodic and graceful manner every time; drummer Michael Smith provided discreet support on the ballads and sufficient drive on "Sonnymoon for Two" to bring the set to an emphatic and thoroughly enjoyable close. Randy Brecker and trio return tonight.