Don Grolnick was a busy session pianist/keyboardist who played on many kinds of dates, including jazz fusion and pop. But for a brief period in the late 1980s and early '90s, he detoured into playing post-bop. Weaver of Dreams was the first of his two CDs for Blue Note, featuring an all-star septet including the Brecker Brothers, Bob Mintzer, Dave Holland, Peter Erskine, and Barry Rogers.
For Now You See It…Now You Don't, Michael Brecker's third recording as a leader, the tenor great used different personnel on most of the selections but played consistently well. Jim Beard's synthesizers were utilized for atmosphere, to set up a funky groove, or to provide a backdrop for the leader. Some of the music sounds like updated John Coltrane (Joey Calderazzo's McCoy Tyner-influenced piano helps), while other pieces could almost pass for Weather Report, if Wayne Shorter rather than Joe Zawinul had been the lead voice. Most of the originals (either by Brecker, Beard, or producer Don Grolnick) project moods rather than feature strong melodies, but Michael Brecker's often-raging tenor makes the most of each opportunity.
The legacy of Mike Mainieri’s and the late Michael Brecker’s Steps Ahead, one of the most inventive groups in 1980s jazz-rock, was delightfully rekindled in a reunion band at Ronnie Scott’s in London this summer. Here’s a stirring orchestral angle on the group’s classic material, rearranged by Michael Abene for Cologne’s famous WDR Big Band, with the sleekly swinging vibraphonist Mainieri still in the driving seat. Don Grolnick’s laconic, Wayne Shorter-like Pools and the soul-funky Blue Montreux fire up scalding tenor-sax forays from Bill Evans (one of the best Breckeresque specialists in this idiom, and the album’s solo star), while the beautiful, country-tinged Self Portrait gets a sumptuous.
A lesser known Cobham recording that has only been available in the U.S. as an import. Cobham also seems to push guitarists to new heights (i.e. Tommy Bolin, John Abercrombie, John Scofield) and does so here with Barry Finnerty. Their interaction on the tune "Flight Time" is reminiscent of Cobham/Bolin on Spectrum. Yet, despite the intensity and chops of Finnerty and Cobham, this session is remarkably restrained thanks in large part to the thoughtful playing of keyboarist Don Grolnick. There is a definite sense of a band here, rather than just a collection of all-stars playing Billy Cobham songs; in fact, the only Cobham retread is "Antares" (from Magic). Whether it is Don Grolnick's piano solo on "6 Persimmons" or his opening duet with Barry Finnerty on "Princess," Cobham should get just as much credit for what he did not play.