Tales from the Hudson has an excellent mix of different types of tunes and is, like most of Brecker's stuff, absolutely sweet. I picked this album up when it was released in 1996 and I still listen to it regularly. It's a damned good thing CD's came along because if these things were still distributed on tapes I would have worn it out by now. Mike certainly knows how to pick a band -- he's been playing with, more or less, the same guys now for years. I love to see Pat Metheny on a CD jacket! Here's a list of who's playing on this disc:

I was really surprised to hear so much of Calderazzo on this album. When I first got it, I new Joey as an amazing player, but I didn't know he could fit this well. That was almost 8 years ago, and now I know better :) He plays on seven out of the nine tunes on this disc and they're all pretty stellar. Here's a quick synopsis of what I hear in these tunes... what others hear may vary:

Slings and Arrows -- This tune runs at about 340 bpm. In other words, it moves, but it's not just a tune that moves like Giant Steps does, where the bass just walks (runs) like mad and the drums move the tune forward. There's a lot going on here -- there's counterpoint, nice breaks in the movement, but always forward momentum. The solos, of course, are amazing... I absolutely love Pat on this entire album... he plays classic Metheny on this tune, and classic Pat is exactly what you want to hear! Jack provides some really nice accents to all of the solos on this tune, as well as providing some nice solo work of his own at the end. Communication throughout this entire album is amazing and this tune is a beautiful example of that.

Midnight Voyage -- A nice contrast to Slings and Arrows, this cut's been written to move at about 144 with a good swing. There's some obviousness in the melody, but it was never meant to be a complex head; it's just meant to groove, and it does that nicely. Mike, Joey and Pat all play the head in unison while Joey and Pat throw in some nice colour here and there. Once in a while, DeJohnette throws in a bit of a back beat which really adds something to the solos he's playing too. I was never a huge fan of Jack's but he cooks pretty nicely on this album.

Song for Bilbao -- For me, this is the top tune on the album! Pat wrote this tune a long time ago and I think it was first recorded on "Travels", but this version absolutely makes it for me. I think Tyner is playing on this one instead of Calderazzo, and that's just fine by me! Between the excellent feel, Brecker's kick ass solo, Pat's MIDI guitar (and bang on improv!), and McCoy's utter amazingness (!!) this cut absolutely does it for me. This will probably get the most play on almost anyone's disc player.

Beau Rivage -- This is a really nice ballad that is made beautiful, in my opinion, by the playing of Michael Brecker. Mike has a ballad sound that I love more than any other Tenor player out there. He just doesn't hold back when he's playing ballads, and that's not easy to do while maintaining control and taste. A lot of players are too timid with ballads or too out of control, which is understandable because they are absolutely brutal to play. With that said, all of these players are amazing, and Pat's solo truly speaks... I've analyzed Mike's solo on this one because I'm trying to understand how he does what he does on ballads, but the notes aren't enough. I'm still working it out, and one day I'll figure out why I like his ballads so much... listen and you'll know what I'm talking about. When the band swings into it, his solo takes on a new life that is classic Brecker. I can't stop listening to this guy :)

African Skies -- Brecker wrote this tune in 12/8 but it shifts between a feeling in 2 and a feeling in 3. For part of the tune you count it as 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12, while for other parts you count it as 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12. If that were all that was in this tune, it might not be so cool, but everything is hip in this latin-type tune. Brecker lays down a wicked solo that I just love here! And Tyner plays a solo that really fits nicely. I'll never get over how well that cat can play.

Introduction to Naked Soul -- Naked Soul can stand on its own, but when Mike and Dave play this introduction, it just makes it that much better. If you're listening to the disc from end to end, African Skies leaves you too high in order to let you suck down Naked Soul as you should.

Naked Soul -- After the introduction, you're brought into a tune that just lays down for you. It moves at about 90 - 95 bpm, holds a Brecker solo and a Holland solo. It's just a sweet tune... Jack blends the colours together well, and Michael leads it through the feel and the dynamics like a god.

Willie T. -- After Naked Soul, this group picks you up slightly with a bit of a higher tempo, but no much. This is another light groove swing that starts out with no time. Michael and Pat play together on the opening with a bit of work from Joey and Jack to add colour. Eventually Jack moves it down to time and Dave pops in on the downbeat. Then it just starts swinging... the melody comes in with a bit of interest as the notes move through some nice keys and the backing chords follow. Joey throws in some thick harmony that comes off well. Rhythmically, Joey really shows some nice taste here. Solos come from Mike, Pat and Joey and the tune basically stays on an even keel from start to finish. I would have hoped that we're led a little bit better into the next tune, but that certainly doesn't take away from the quality of Willie T.

Cabin Fever -- I'd say this one moves at around 300 and it's just a nice showcase for skill and imagination. The head is cool, unexpected, and interesting. Mike loses his mind during his solo, which is absolutely the coolest! I love it when he's blowing hard, cracking notes and just screaming. Pat and Joey also turn out some solos in this tune and the skill is wild. These guys have all got the imagination of a brilliant 5 year old child... The kind of imagination we all used to have before we started watching TV and playing video games.

It's pretty rare I hear a Michael Brecker album I don't love. This certainly is one that stays in the disc player a lot. If you love this stuff half as much as I do, go to the store and pick up Tales from the Hudson.

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