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Essential Michael Brecker

By Published: January 18, 2007
MB: Well, when I initially moved to New York I lived in an apartment, but I became friendly with musicians such as Dave Liebman, Dave Holland; I got to know Chick Corea pretty early on, and musicians sort of in my milieu. And a lot of them were living in lofts, and that's where we used to do a lot of the playing. Lofts were reconverted factory spaces, converted into living spaces. They were very inexpensive, large, and generally somewhat neighbor-less-a different vibe than living in an apartment. I actually moved into a loft a couple years later, and my loft was actually right out back of Dave Liebman's loft; our windows were almost facing each other.

Dave had a really strong scene going on in his place. There were musicians playing there literally every day. He was taping, and I was there often, either playing or listening. There's a gentleman named Steve Grossman who's a fantastic saxophonist, he used to be there a lot, and the music would go from one loft to another. There was a lot of playing going on and that's sort of how we honed our craft. We learned our instruments, you know, really learned to play that way. Eventually, we started getting busy, and Dave went with Elvin, I think. I should mention too that we formed an organization called Free Life Communication, which is what gelled out of the loft scene. It was an organization basically dedicated to creative music, largely made up of loft musicians, and Dave Liebman was really the primary instigator, he and Richard Beirach kind of headed it up.

Originally lofts were used as concert spaces, then Dave and Richie were able to get hold of financial backing that provided a beautiful space, and a lot of concerts were held there. It was an amazing thing and quite unique, really. It sort of began to dissolve as everybody started getting busy professionally. Dave went with Elvin, and I went-we all sort of went our separate ways. Dave eventually joined Miles.

Steve Grossman was playing with Elvin and Miles as well, and my brother and I were always playing with different groups, and eventually formed the Brecker Brothers. In '73 we played with Horace Silver for a year. We also were in a group called Dreams and recorded for Columbia Records back in '70, '71. That's a kind of rambling answer to your question. (Laughter)

AAJ: Well, I'm interested in the camaraderie musicians always seem to have had in jazz, and I imagine that things in New York have changed quite a bit, and you kind of alluded to that in your answer, saying how people moved on as they started getting work.

MB: I think the scene just changed and younger players found a way to get together. You know, lofts became more expensive as time went on; they became very fashionable and chic-and amazingly expensive. So the places to get lofts started changing. It was easier to find them in Brooklyn and other places, and I think the scene really moved. It moved around quite a bit.

AAJ: Was that when you had your club with your brother?

MB: The club came later. That was around '77. The club was actually another way for us to provide an environment for creative music, and it worked very well.

AAJ: How long did you have that?

MB: Seven years. The name of the club was 7th Ave South, and it was one of the hot spots in New York.

AAJ: That must have been quite a learning experience to run a club.

MB: Well, it was; and probably the main thing I learned was that I'll never do it again. (Laughter) But, we had some fantastic times there musically, and in other areas as well. It was a great learning experience to be sort of on the other side of the fence.

AAJ: You must have got a bunch of different people coming in. Describe some of the crowds, the people that would come.

MB: We had a very open booking policy. We weren't strictly, you know, an acoustic jazz club; there was a lot of electric music there as well. And we changed up a lot, and tried to, you know-our niche was that we sort of presented interesting music in many genres-a lot of R&B groups-and a lot of groups had their start there as well. And we attracted a New York audience that wanted to come out and enjoy themselves and hear some music. Steps Ahead had its beginning there. Jaco's Word of Mouth band actually began as a gig at 7th Avenue, and he wasn't allowed to advertise it because of his record company, but it was standing room only-and it was purely from word of mouth-so that's where that came from.

AAJ: Wow, that sounds like a great time, too. Well, let me ask you about your new CD, Time Is of the Essence. I guess the most notable thing-what stands out the most-is that you have three drummers playing with you. Describe the time-feel of Elvin Jones, Jeff "Tain" Watts and Bill Stewart.

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