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Michael Brecker: He Can Groove Any Way You Want

By Published: January 18, 2007

AAJ: Did the EWI and performing that kind of music take you places you would not have otherwise explored or later have an impact on your acoustic material?

MB: Well, it certainly opened doors... sonically, that I never even dreamed of. It opened doors in areas... synthesis... and the fact that it is such an expressive instrument... previous to that I had tried to electrify the saxophone. And it [the EWI] is a challenging instrument to play.

AAJ: Yeah, don't you have to keep your fingers off the keys?

MB: Yeah, just that alone

AAJ: Did that ever get overcome?

MB: It got overcome pretty quickly... I was willing to do whatever it took...and as I said, it has certain sonic possibilities... and at the same time it made going back to the saxophone seem fresh.

AAJ: Could you discuss what each player brings to the group?

MB: Well, you know, I've been playing with Joey Calderazzo for many years and he brings a very strong compositional ability (to the band)...and is just a very broad player. And James Genus is just a good bassist and, you know, just really plays the bass [laughs], and assumes that function, and I like that. Jeff Watts is great on the drums.

AAJ: [Guitarist Pat] Metheny's quoted as saying he "hears music in everything . Do you find that's true for you?

MB: Sometimes. Most of the time I'm usually not looking at it that way [laughs]. Occasionally, I'll listen to the... cicadas...

AAJ: They sound orchestral sometimes...

MB: They sound like they're talking...but, I wouldn't say I go around thinking like that.

AAJ: The use of [graphic artist] Escher's "Sky and Water I" on Now You See It, Now You Don't captured that concept in a static image really well. Do you get involved in the presentation of your product?

MB: I do. I did a tune on the Now You See it, Now You Don't album called "Escher Sketch." It seemed to me to be an aural adaptation of an Escher lithograph. It sort of presented a figure, a sonic figure or relationship It's something I will probably do more of in the future, in a different way.

AAJ: Coming out of his work?

MB: No. It's really not coming out of his work at all. It occurred to me to be a similarity though, in other words, it wasn't inspired by his work. A whole other place, but I realized there were certain parallels between the two. I used one of his lithographs which was a fairly famous one. Actually, I had chosen a different one that had dogs, but the record company thought that the dogs looked a little too rabid [laughs].

AAJ: [laughs]

MB: So we passed up on that one, but I'm generally involved, both my manager and I.

AAJ: I'm sure that's a lot of fun

MB: It is a lot of fun.

AAJ: What are your considerations when composing new music? Techniques, concepts? Are there certain processes each time or do you make it different each time?

MB: I kind of let the chips fall. I'll come in with certain ideas I want to hear, a certain direction that I want to pursue. A lot of it I kind of leave up to the muse. When I'm in writing mode I make sure that I'm available to write everyday. And certain days its going to work and certain days nothing's going to happen.

AAJ: Do themes, ostinatos, etc. just kind of come to you?

MB: Sometimes... they'll come... there are many ways, it just depends.

AAJ: You sometimes credit Edgar Grana in the liners. Have you been studying with him and how has he helped you?

MB: Well, he helped me to be able to focus on a certain aspect of writing and also taught me a lot about counterpoint, composition and to finish what I start.

AAJ: What do you work on?

MB: I work on a lot of things, harmonic things, intervals and just the saxophone.

AAJ: You've developed and integrated so many different styles within your playing, yet you still sound original and recognizable, even to non-musicians. How do you feel you've been able to do that, continue to be accessible, yet stay hip and focused?

MB...I try to approach everything creatively, you know...

AAJ: Does the material change from show to show and from tour to studio?

MB: Yeah, it does change quite a bit, although on this past record we had the chance to go out and play the music live, for a little while, which I did on purpose; the first time I've ever done that. Because often I would record—you know, write music and then attempt the compositions and would record them first and then go out and play. And then two or three months down the line the music would've changed...

AAJ: Did it just get more open, more easy?

MB: Yeah. We knew the music by the time we went into the studio. There's a fine line between knowing it and getting bored with it. It had come together to such a degree we could really get it going in the studio and not have to worry about it.

AAJ: Did you get a lot of rehearsal in before the sessions?

MB: We played the music a lot.

AAJ: I saw the quartet last summer with Adam Nussbaum on drums and at one point you went from one tune into solos and when Adam came out of his solo you went into another tune...

MB: You must have been in Northampton!

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