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Essential Michael Brecker

By Published: January 18, 2007
MB: I welcome any opportunity I can ever possibly get to play with Pat Metheny. He's, you know, probably my favorite musician playing right now. I can't say enough about him; I love his playing. Obviously, I love his sound, and his conception, I think, really transcends the instrument. He's an artist in every sense of the word, and, as you said, a fantastic composer. So I asked him to come up with a couple of tunes for the record, because the idea of playing with Pat and not playing his compositions seemed crazy. Fortunately, he brought in a couple of tunes, one of which he had previously recorded on his quartet record, the ballad "As I Am. And then, he had kind of half-finished "Timeline and we realized that it would be a great vehicle for Elvin, so Pat finished it quickly, and I think it was the perfect vehicle.

I asked Larry to write something as well, because I'm a big fan of his writing from his albums, and he came up with "Sound Off.

AAJ: Yeah, that really jumps.

MB: That one jumps. I originally came in with a whole lot of tunes-a bunch of them I dumped, [Laughter] knowing that I would, and I kept what I thought were the best of my own. One of them is a composition which is only on a Japanese release. It's a tune in 7/4 which I like very much. It's called "Lunations, and I think that's going to be available on the Internet. I'm not totally sure, but I think it's coming out as some kind of liquid audio format.

AAJ: Yeah, well I hope so. It would be really nice to hear that.

MB: It's a cool thing. I'm really hoping that it comes out.

AAJ: I'm curious about your practicing. Do you still practice?

MB: Yes.

AAJ: Clearly, you are very technically adept at getting around on your instrument, and I wonder what part of music you struggle with the most?

MB: Where do I begin? [Laughter]

AAJ: Is it more of a mental thing? It seems like you have the physical side of playing pretty much in hand.

MB: I don't find myself struggling so much with the technical. The point of the practicing for me has never really been, at least on the saxophone hasn't been for years, about the technical end of it. Occasionally, you know, I'll find something that I need to bone up on. It's much more about learning different relationships between notes and chords. There's so much I don't know. It's like the more I learn, the more there is to learn. I'm always working on new, intervalic relationships, trying to use my mind, exercise my ears. There's tons to learn out there.

AAJ: Let me ask you, if I may, about a friend of yours who died not long ago, Don Grolnick. I imagine that his memory is still strong with you.

MB: Yeah, his memory is always going to be strong. He was my closest friend, and produced all of my records. We played in 12 or 13 different bands together. He had a way of smoothing my rough edges, and I could kind of ruffle-up his smooth edges. So we were a good team.

AAJ: During the course of an average day, he must come to mind. What do you remember most?

MB: I usually remember-the things that come up on a daily basis are the things that he used to say. He had a really great sense of humor. The record Two Block from the Edge (Impulse/GRP, 1997) was named after one of Don's quips. One day he leaned over to me and said that he liked living close to the edge as long as it was two blocks away.

Selected Discography

Michael Brecker, Time is of the Essence (Verve, 1999)
Vince Mendoza, Epiphany (Zebra, 1999)
Michael Brecker, Two Blocks from the Edge (Impulse!, 1997)
James Taylor, Hourglass (Columbia, 1997)
Mike Stern, Give and Take (Atlantic, 1997)
Michael Brecker, Tales from the Hudson (Impulse!, 1996)
Tony Williams, Wilderness (Ark 21, 1996)
Herbie Hancock, The New Standard (Verve, 1995)
The Brecker Brothers, Out of the Loop (GRP, 1994)
The Brecker Brothers, Return of the Brecker Brothers (GRP, 1992)
Michael Brecker, Now You See It, Now You Don't (GRP, 1990)
Michael Brecker, Don't Try This at Home (Impulse!, 1988)
Gary Burton, Times Like These (GRP, 1988)
Michael Brecker, Michael Brecker (Impulse!, 1986)
Kenny Wheeler, Double, Double You (ECM, 1983)
Joni Mitchell, Shadows and Light (Asylum, 1980)
The Brecker Brothers, Straphangin' (Arista, 1980)
Steps Ahead, Smokin' in the Pit (NYC, 1980)
Pat Metheny, 80/81> (ECM, 1980)
Frank Zappa, Zappa in New York (Rykodisc, 1978)
The Brecker Brothers, Heavy Metal Be-bop (Arista, 1978)
The Brecker Brothers, Brecker Bros. (Arista, 1975)
Billy Cobham, Crosswinds (Atlantic, 1974)
Dreams, Dreams (Columbia, 1970)

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