Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

straight up

Randy Brecker & Vincent Herring: Here’s to Louis

Written by:

by Derrick Gardner

When I was in high school back in the early 1980s, I remember hearing a tune called “Straphangin” on our local jazz radio station. The artists performing this tune were the Brecker Brothers and it was the title track of the album that was released in 1980. This was my introduction to Randy Brecker.

The first thing that intrigued me was that some parts of the melody moved against the chord progressions—being in high school, I couldn’t comprehend that. Yet it still represented something funky and I was very familiar with that! At that time I was listening to my favorite funk groups—Parliament Funkadelic, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Ohio Players, and many others—and I knew all of the horn lines to all of their songs.

So when I heard “Straphangin,” the groove was funky but the horns didn’t sound anything like Parliament’s Horny Horns or EWF’s Phoenix Horns. This was something more complex, more in tune with the jazz tradition. The mixture of musical complexity and funkiness came across in Randy’s solos and his brother Michael’s as well. They offered the listener something that the average person could identify with—they didn’t alienate the listener with “musical acrobatics.” This is the stuff they don’t teach in the improvisation books. This takes real skill!!

Randy’s musical roots are in straight-ahead jazz, and over the years he has developed a style of playing that lets him fit into nearly any musical setting. His musical journey has taken him, for example, from Blood, Sweat & Tears to Horace Silver, Clark Terry’s Big Band to George Duke, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra to David Sanborn, crossing the musical railroad tracks of many other notable names as well.

In November, Randy will be crossing the railroad tracks again, and performing a musical tribute to Louis Armstrong as part of the Izzy Asper Jazz Performances series. Get ready for the train ride!

by Steve Kirby

You may have heard saxophonist Vincent Herring a couple of years back at the jazz festival—he was tearing it up with Jimmy Cobb’s band.

Herring has played with just about everybody: Freddie Hubbard, Nat Adderley, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Horace Silver, Kenny Barron, Steve Turre, Cedar Walton, Jack De Johnette, Louis Hayes, and Nancy Wilson, to name a few.

I got to know him several years ago with the Charles Mingus Big Band. He’s one of the most vital musicians I’ve met, and one of the most interesting and musical too. With his West Point training, he has extraordinary drive and discipline. He commands a high level on the band stand, and almost nobody can top him!

He has more than a dozen recordings as a leader now, and over two hundred as a sideman. He has a couple of groups of his own—Vincent Herring Quartet and Earth Jazz Agents—and plays regularly with the Mingus Big Band, the Louis Hayes Cannonball Legacy Band, and the Cedar Walton Quartet. His touring schedule is staggering. In the past six months, he has played in the UK, Russia, Lebanon, Austria, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Poland, and India, as well as clubs and festivals in the US.

We’re excited to add Winnipeg to that list—he’ll join Randy Brecker for the Tribute to Louis Armstrong on November 27. The music will be great, and the musicianship will be even better. Don’t miss this one!

Copyright! © 2023 dig! magazine.