By Mike Zielinski
It hardly is surprising that The Super Band features artists with pedigrees that scream supernova talent.
The Super Band is performing Sunday, April 2, at 3 p.m. at the Miller Center for the Arts.
This will be no ordinary concert, even for The Super Band.
Dean Brown is taking over for Mike Stern in the Berks Jazz Fest concert. Stern, one of the most esteemed electric guitarists of his generation, sustained two fractured shoulders in a fall last year. He came back to perform after surgery, and has just had another minor surgery, to complete the next step in his recovery.
“Mike Stern fell the day before he was supposed to leave for a tour in Europe,” said Brecker. “He fell running for a cab while carrying his guitar. He suffered nerve damage. He was out for a while and when he came back to play, he had to use wig glue to hold the pick. He was in a lot of pain but played great on a cruise we were on. He is very brave with a very positive attitude. I’ve known the guy for years and I now have seen a side of him that I didn’t know existed. We are dedicating the Berks Jazz Fest concert to him.”
Stern is an electrifying soloist whose blistering chops combine rock-fusion firepower with sophisticated jazz harmonies and his inherently bluesey string-bending prowess.
“I am sorry to miss the Berks Jazz Fest concert with my Super Band friends, who have been so supportive these past months,” said Stern. “It gives me comfort that Dean can fill in again. He’s fantastic!”
Brecker said that Berks Jazz Fest fans are in for a memorable concert.
“We already figured out the set,” Brecker said. “We are not just going to show up and play. We will play a little each of our compositions. We will play one of Mike Stern’s tunes and dedicate it to him. To generalize, all the music will be jazz fusion and funk. It’s going to be exciting.”
The legend of Randy Brecker has swelled like a blowfish over the decades.
The trumpeter and composer, the winner of five Grammy Awards, has helped shape the sound of jazz, R&B and rock for more than four decades.
After stints with Blood, Sweat & Tears, the Jazz Messengers and the seminal fusion group Dreams, he and his tenor saxophonist brother Michael formed the Brecker Brothers Band, a band of immeasurable impact and influence.
Dean Brown’s music defies boundaries to combine rock, Latin, jazz, fun and fusion into a joyful, soulful, dynamic and intense groove. He is well known in the global jazz/fusion scene for his powerful virtuosic rhythm guitar work and his passionate melodic soloing. Brown has released four critically acclaimed solo CDs worldwide and released his fifth solo recording last year.
Saxophone legend Bill Evans made his debut on the international music scene in the 1980s originally with Miles Davis (at the age of 21 and recorded six records with Davis) which led to playing with the likes of John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Mick Jagger and Willie Nelson to name a few. With 24 solo albums, Grammy nods, and countless collaborations and tours, Evans has continued to explore a dazzling variety of adventurous musical settings as a pioneering bandleader, consistently winning fans in the worldwide arena.
Keith Carlock is one of the best drummers in the world. He has recorded and/or toured with such musical luminaries as John Mayer, Sting, Steely Dan, James Taylor, Christopher Cross, Donald Fagen, Walter Becker, Diana Ross, Faith Hill, The Blues Brothers Band, Mike Stern, Leni Stern, Richard Bona, Chris Botti, Wayne Krantz, Harry Belafonte, Oz Noy, Larry Carlton, Clay Aiken, Rascal Flatts, Paula Abdul and Grover Washington, Jr.
Double bass and electric bass player Tom Kennedy began playing acoustic bass by the age of 9 and by his 18th birthday had performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, Stan Kenton and Nat Adderley, among many other notable artists. After his introduction to the electric bass at the age of 17, he soon was dividing his time between mainstream jazz and progressive fusion jazz fusion. He has performed and recorded with a whole array of marquee musicians.
Brecker said that the transition from Mike Stern to Dean Brown will be rather seamless because Brown played with The Brecker Brothers back in the 1990s and has performed frequently with Bill Evans.
“Dean and Bill toured together last summer,” Brecker said. “And Bill Evans and I have been playing together for years. We co-led a band called Soul Bop for seven to eight years. We go way back.”
Brecker said he is thrilled at the chance to play with Keith Carlock.
“I’ve been playing with this band in various formations, but not much with Keith Carlock,” Brecker said, “so I really am looking forward to playing with him at Berks. He is a unique player. No wonder he’s in such demand. He can play any style. He goes with the music. He’s really in the pocket. Organic.”
Brecker has great respect for Tom Kennedy.
“He is a great upright and electric player,” he said.
Brecker, 71 years young, finds playing with A-list musicians to be exhilarating.
“You got be at your best,” he said. “You can’t let your chops down. You’re fed by each other and the audience. We get a lot of positive feedback. And Berks has great audiences.”
After all, who can resist appreciating musical artist super heroes?