Electric Jazz

Charged Particles honor Michael Brecker in Napa

Bay Area jazz trio Charged Particles are not afraid to plug in and get loud when the occasion calls for it.

For nearly 30 years, the band has engaged in a variety of genre-blending projects marked by elaborate arrangements and fiery performances.

This month, saxophonist Tod Dickow joins Charged Particles for a concert tribute to saxophonist and bandleader Michael Brecker at Blue Note in Napa, July 12.

Founded by Stanford professor and drummer Jon Krosnick, Charged Particles also features keyboardist Murray Low and bassist Aaron Germain. Together, the group covers a broad spectrum of jazz with an emphasis on fusion’s heavy doses of synthesizers and amplified instruments.

“Around 1970, Miles Davis, Weather Report and others saw synthesizers and the electric bass as a way to increase the volume, increase the energy and increase the breadth of sounds you had to offer audiences,” Krosnick says. “All of a sudden it became very loud and very intense.”

These days, Krosnick notes many jazz players have gone back to the acoustic styles popular before 1970, and his aim for Charged Particles is to embrace all of those historic periods and sensibilities into a blend. Low performs on electric keyboards as well as a traditional piano, and Germain switches between electric and standup bass.

“What we want to do is to make sure the audience is engaged and interested and surprised as often as possible,” Krosnick says. “We’re always looking for how to make the next song different from the last one.”

The group also keeps it interesting by joining forces with other performers, as they’ve done with San Francisco saxophonist Tod Dickow for this upcoming tribute concert to the late Michael Brecker, who passed away in 2007.

“Michael [Brecker] is in the handful of the most important jazz musicians ever,” Krosnick says. “He really set a standard for technical excellence, but his brilliant creative ideas and innovative compositions moved the music forward. He was a very important voice for my generation and younger generations of jazz listeners.”

Though Brecker’s music is rarely found in songbooks, Dickow devoted himself to transcribing his works by listening to archives, and the band’s relentless rehearsals have allowed them to perform Brecker’s most complex songs with proper precision and musical expression.

“We’re incredibly excited to bring it to the Blue Note, which I think is a really important chapter for jazz in the Bay Area,” Krosnick says. “It’s arguably the most important jazz club franchise in the world, and for us to be invited to play there is an honor.”

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