he's a master of restraint, playing beautifully, economically, delicately...
Dan Hill 2002
Of all the great modern saxophonists, Michael Brecker is perhaps the last guy you expect to deliver an album of ballads, particularly featuring James Taylor. But that's exactly what Nearness of You is, and given possibly the greatest band line-up available, it's a real success. Check the supporting cast: Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, and Jack DeJohnette. Each a great virtuoso, composer, and bandleader in their own right. But it's Brecker's show. Where sometimes his powerful technique and considerable verve can overwhelm tunes, bands and listeners, here he's a master of restraint, playing beautifully, economically, delicately.
The album is in two 'chapters', the first romantic, the second more explorative. Highlights include Metheny's arrangement of "Nascente", Weill/Gershwin's "My Ship", and Joe Zawinul's "Midnight Mood". James Taylor sings his own "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight", and the wonderful Hoagy Carmichael/Ned Washington title track. Metheny, Haden and DeJohnette are supreme, naturally, but it's a particular pleasure to hear Herbie Hancock as a 'proper' sideman in a 'proper' band for the first time in years.
Brecker describes the mood, accurately, as "kind of a slow, relaxed burn" and it's truly an honour to hear such fine musicians and such fine music.