Dreams — “New York”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — April 23, 2023


803) Dreams — “New York”

The dream of nuclear fusion, achieved! This jazz-rock barn burner is hardly a love letter to NYC (where all the lonely, uptight people do come from). The band — filled with a Murderer’s Row of future fusion Hall of Famers. And the cacophony of what sound like blaring car horns at the end is a hoot.

“Dreams is a legendary pioneer jazz-rock group that included such young players as trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarist John Abercrombie, drummer Billy Cobham and the 19-year old tenor Michael Brecker”. (Scott Yanow, https://www.allmusic.com/album/dreams-mw0000274057) “This is what happened in the 60s and 70s when you brought together jazz and rock musicians. They did not know they were playing ‘fusion’. The difference here is the vocals, unusual for such a powerful ensemble.” (Le West, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fusZWH7Q4M0)

John O’Regan says of the album that:

All [the] . . . tracks were original compositions . . . , highlight[ing a] talent[] for writing catchy jazz/pop/rock songs and the band’s . . . musical expertise. The album was recorded mostly live which added to the fresh spontaneous atmosphere of the recording. Dreams featured a mix of catchy songs with great horn licks and impassioned vocals from Edward Vernon . . . . Dreams deserve to be more than a footnote to beginning the careers of Billy Cobham, John Abercrombie and the Brecker Brothers among others. . . . their distinctive jazz/rock/funk crossovers encompassing commerciality and musical dexterity . . . .


Slava (Snobb) tells us that:

Dreams . . . was founded in late sixties as [a] trio, but soon added [a] brass section and became the brass-rock band in a manner of Chicago or Blood Sweat and Tears. Even if they didn’t [achieve] popularity in their time, they became a great starting place for some well known fusion musicians . . . . Differently from other brass-rock bands of the time, their music was more improv based in New Orleans tradition. The band released just two studio albums and was disbanded, but many members became great musicians in [the] future.


O’Regan adds:

Dreams . . . became a popular live band in the New York and Chicago areas and headed to Los Angeles. There they played a battle of the bands [with the] J. Geils Band for a recording contract with Atlantic Records as the prize. The boisterous rhythm and blues-based J. Geils Band . . . was signed to Atlantic but Dreams made their own reputation. . . . [tearing] the place down . . . . [and] received a contract from CBS Records . . . .


Michael Brecker reminisced that:

I couldn’t have picked a better time. I was in the first generation to be exposed equally to jazz and pop. We listened to Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, rhythm-and-blues, the Beatles, Hendrix. We developed a whole new approach and it gave us so much freedom. The rock context meant that you could play complex ideas and not be met by a bunch of puzzled or hostile faces.


I’m full disclosure, Scott Yanow thought the band was more of a nightmare:

[Dreams’] music has dated very badly. This CD reissue finds solos being de-emphasized in favor of erratic and often unlistenable vocals. While trombonist Barry Rogers had a feeling for jazz, the remainder of the group . . . weighs down the recording with mundane pop sensibilities. Only a spirited “New York” and the 14-minute “Dream Suite” allow the horns a chance to blow a bit and even there the results are quite forgettable and disappointing.


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