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Brecker Brothers Reunion Band brings more than funk

| Friday, April 12, 2013, 10:12 p.m.

There is far more to the Brecker Brothers Reunion Band than the funk of its original days in the 1970s.

Oh, certainly, the band still specializes in the horn-happy pop jazz of those days. Trumpeter Randy Brecker closed the first concert at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild April 12 with "Some Skunk Funk," a virtual theme song for the band. He said it is a song "everybody expects at a Brecker Brothers concert."

But the band also did a reflective "Elegy for Mike, " dedicated to the other Brecker, virtuoso saxophonist Michael, who died of leukemia in 2007. It also did a new song, "The Slang," which had a slightly newer funk tone to it.

It also works with the saxophone and clarinet work of Ada Ravotti, Randy Brecker's wife, who does well in the unpleasant role of taking Michael's place.

The band on this tour has a few other changes as well. Mitch Stein sits in on guitar for Mike Stern, who is touring with John Scofield and was with him at the guild April 6. Keyboard-singer Oli Rockberger provides a multifaceted role at the keys, and even a voice that hints the style of Sting in songs.

Ravotti might play the most important new role, though. Taking the place of Michael Brecker is an unenviable task, but she does well with good speed and a husky tone on tenor that commands attention.

Her clarinet work, though, might be her best aspect. On Rockberger's "Merry Go Town," she offered a solo on clarinet that had the tone of an alto or tenor saxophone solo on a rhythm and blues piece. It was far from what many clarinet players says, yet filled with beautiful dark-wood sound.

Drummer Rodney Holmes, guitarist Mitch Stein, and bassist Neil Jason also were strong throughout the night, with Holmes offering a powerful solo on a song Michael Brecker wrote, but had fallen to the wayside, "Bathsheba." It is a good piece and worthy of the band's revival.

Of course, none of this mentions the work of Randy Brecker, who had a good stage presence as a leader and front man, but more importantly, plays with power, taste and speed.

He offered many solos using pedal devices that greatly changed the sound of his trumpet, making it into a brass version of the hybrid Electronic Wind Instrument, which Michael often played.

It is sad not to hear the purity of his trumpet work, but his play in any way gets the job done.

The Brecker Brothers Band definitely had a niche audience, and the reunion band might widen that niche.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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