|The Comet's Tail|
by Willard Manus
I'm delighted to have finally caught up with THE COMET'S TAIL, Chuck Owen & The Jazz Surge's tribute to the late, great Michael Brecker. The CD is the first release from the University of South Florida's Center for Jazz Compositions. On it such longtime Brecker collaborators as Joe Livano, Dave Liebman, Danny Gottleib and of course his brother Randy join forces with seventeen young Jazz Surge musicians. Together they deliver some of the finest big-band music I've heard in recent years.
Owen, who won a 2009 Guggenheim for his work at South Florida, first conceived of COMET'S TALE as a light-hearted celebration of Brecker's compositional achievements. He and other arrangers put their own stamp on several of Brecker's best-known tunes, but just as they began to give concerts in Florida, Brecker died unexpectedly from complications of leukemia. That led to a rethinking of the CD's musical approach; new tunes were added, several arrangements were deepened and made more reflective and meaningful. Did joy give way to gloom? On the contrary. THE COMET'S TALE still has drive and fire, but it possesses other dimensions as well, an underlying poignancy, touches of melancholy and loss.
My favorite track was the pumped-up, rollicking version of Itsbynne Reel, which featured Rob Thomas on violin and Jack Wilkins on tenor, but I also found the Livano-led ballads, Take A Walk and Everything Happens When You're Gone, to be equally as satisfying and compelling. The album pays tribute to Brecker with heartfelt respect and beauty. (Sales@summitrecords.com)