Scottish National Jazz Orchestra
In celebration of Michael Brecker
featuring Randy Brecker
Michael Brecker was a player of inexhaustible creativity. He was born in Philadelphia in 1949, and began playing clarinet and alto saxophone only switching to tenor in high school after hearing John Coltrane. Following his older brother, Randy, first to Indiana University and then to New York, Michael signalled his burgeoning talent on Randy’s first album, Score, before the brothers formed a formidable front-line in early fusion band Dreams, in Horace Silver’s band and then as leaders of the successful jazz-funk band, The Brecker Brothers from 1974.
As a busy session musician throughout the 1970s and 1980s Michael worked with James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan and hundreds of others. At the same time he was also a crucial presence on dozens of jazz albums, recording with Chick Corea, Pat Metheny and Steve Khan, and was the distinctive ‘voice’ in the popular band Steps, later Steps Ahead, where he pioneered the EWI synthesiser.
In 1987, he recorded his first album, Michael Brecker, followed by a series of albums that saw him working with musicians including Pat Metheny, McCoy Tyner and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts and blossoming into an accomplished, authoritative composer. He recorded with Herbie Hancock, on The New Standards, and McCoy Tyner, on Infinity, going on to tour both projects and as well as touring with Paul Simon, he co-led a
Miles Davis tribute, Directions in Music, with Hancock and Roy Hargrove, and continued to win recognition for his outstanding musicianship. He was rewarded with many Grammys and became the first musician to win both the Best Jazz Instrumental Performance and Best Jazz Instrumental Solo Grammys two years in succession.
In 2004, Michael was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia and after a two-year battle he passed away on January 13, 2007. While in the midst of this debilitating illness, however, he persevered. His work in the studio just before his death for his final album, Pilgrimage, includes some of the finest music he ever recorded and featured the all-star line-up of pianists Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau, guitarist Pat Metheny, drummer Jack DeJohnette, and bassist John Patitucci.
Pilgrimage chronicles Michael’s final journey. The music itself served as the sustaining force for periods when the rigours of recording were so physically taxing, but it was Michael’s sheer will and dedication to complete the recording that pushed him, his
colleagues and the project as a whole across the finishing line.
Pat Metheny described Pilgrimage as one of the great codas in modern music history, adding: “What happened in the studio during those few days in August is impossible to describe. It’s one of the most amazing, powerful, unbelievable things that I – and
all who were there – have ever experienced or will ever see.”
Randy Brecker has been helping to shape the sound of jazz for over forty years. Born in Philadelphia in 1945, Randy grew up listening to his father’s Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Horace Silver and Miles Davis records and would go on to play trumpet with many of his early heroes. After studying at Indiana University, where he featured in the university big band and played with fellow student Booker T & the MGs, Randy moved to New York in 1966, securing gigs with Clark Terry, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra and Dick Pearson’s big band before joining jazz-rock pioneers Blood Sweat & Tears.
Having appeared on BST’s debut album, Randy released his first album, Score, which featured his nineteen year old brother, Michael, on tenor saxophone, and joined Horace Silver then Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He and Michael then teamed up in fusion band Dreams, alongside Billy Cobham and John Abercrombie, establishing a partnership that would feature with Horace Silver and on innumerable pop, rock and jazz records and came to prominence in the highly successful Brecker Brothers, which enjoyed two phases (1974-1982 and 1992-2004), going on to a double-Grammy win and becoming the first international contemporary jazz group to tour China.
In a career that has included concerts and recordings with an astonishing array of musicians, including Stevie Wonder, Frank Zappa, Charles Mingus, Jaco Pastorius and Yoko Ono, Randy has consistently worked at the highest level and he remains at the forefront of jazz today. His love of Brazilian music resulted in another Grammy win (he
has five in all) for his 1997 album, Into the Sun, and the WDR Big Band in Cologne’s celebration of his music in 2004 retains special significance as it was the last time he and Michael shared a stage following countless triumphs as one of jazz’s greatest-ever