It's kind of like holding your breath, crossing into hyperspace and taking the high dive all the same time. You know when you're through you've been through something unusual, but don't know quite how to describe it.
An evening with jazzman Michael Brecker makes you feel that way. After hearing Bourbon Street-style melodies to a tune blown on a pipe connected to a computer, there is no doubt that this a niche that is uniquely Brecker and uniquely appealing.MICHAEL BRECKER in concert Thursday at 8 p.m. at Kingsbury Hall. One performance only.
At first, it took some warming to Brecker's blend of rock, jazz and fusion. Especially as Brecker opened the concert playing his ultra-modern electronic wind instrument or EWI (pronounced eewee) sounding like a set of bagpipes playing a Gaelic-influenced "Itsbynne Reel." From there on out the crowd was in a Brecker frame of mind.
The technological innovation of the EWI caught the attention of the audience. The retangular EWI, the length of a clarinet, has 10 octave keys and stunning dynamic range. Brecker made it sound like instruments in a scene from "Star Wars," a booming theater organ and classical wind instrument.
Brecker, soft-spoken and dressed in jeans and a gray jacket Thursday, didn't try to venture into the electronic wasteland known as "New Age." Even with all of his gadgets, his jazz, rock and blues roots were apparent.
The concert was a constant mix of traditional blues and jazz combined with high-energy rock and fusion solos that brought the crowd to its feet. It was also a mix of Brecker mastery - from a fun EWI interlude to a soft sax solo.
Brecker's use of admittedly long tunes, however, didn't leave the audience yawning. Changes in texture from a pure jazz sax to thundering undertones of a fusion in "Nothing Personal" heated up audience reaction. "Chromosome" excited the audience with dramatic chromatic juxtaposition into an almost obscene range.
Perhaps more than anybody besides Brecker, guitarist Mike Stern provided the performance with its best moments. He turned solos into artistry with a vengeance. The crowd couldn't get enough, especially during an improvisation in "Original Ray's."
While Stern brought down the house with his irreverence, pianist Joey Calderazzo took the audience into rare meditative moments with "My One and Only." Brecker and company then took Calderazzo's keyboard masterpiece and made it into a bold statement.
While Brecker made his jazz heritage apparent, he explored new territory with "Original Ray's." Named for the plethora of pizza joints in New York City that have adopted the moniker, Brecker has adopted a plethora of EWI sounds to produce a 20th-century musical circus. It was fun to be lead by Brecker's EWI from theater organ thunder to hints of television themes to delightful respites of classical style, and the band certainly warranted a standing ovation.
After a tour through the twilight zone, the encore "Susphone" brought the audience pretty near Bourbon Street. It was a fitting end to an unusual jazz journey.