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Randy Brecker: Zelig Goes Brazilian

By Published: October 27, 2008

His diversified career has rolled on.

"I guess I think of myself as the Zelig of the trumpet," he says, referencing the Woody Allen film of the same name in which the main character is literally a chameleon. Brecker has no problem with that at all.

"I think it's a problem for people who try to pin me down. It's been a problem, as far as the trajectory of my career. That I admit. But I've never been one to repeat myself as far as conceptualizing CD's. Some musicians kind of do the same CD over and over. There's nothing wrong with that. But I've always found it challenging, and I always enjoy trying to do something completely different than I've done the last time.

"It makes me hard to pin down. I think it confuses a lot of people, but this is the way I've worked. I'm constantly writing. I write in a lot of different styles. Sometimes I can't channel the way things come out. After several months, I might say I've got a lot of tunes that fit in a bebop context, and I'll do a jazz record, which is what I did when I did a record called In the Idiom (Denon, 1986) in the late '80s. Several years later, there were a lot of tunes that were Brazilian-influenced. So I put together a Brazilian record.

"I've done a lot of different things. I've played with a lot of pop bands, so that's a big influence in my writing and conceptualizing CD's. I also like to utilize electronics and the studio as an instrument. That goes all the way back to watching the way Blood, Sweat & Tears albums were done. I've never just been a jazz musician, per se, although jazz is the music closest to my heart since that's what I grew up with. But I've learned a lot since then and have tried to pass it on back out. As I learn something, I try to utilize it and record it."

With all that, he manages to stay excited by music and all the possibilities he explores.

Among the things to expect from Brecker next year is a gig he did with pianist Richie Beirach, bassist George Mraz, and drummer Al Foster at Birdland that may be released on CD. "I also play with the Kenny Werner quintet quite a bit. There's talk about recording that. I'm playing with him in December at the Jazz Standard. We've been playing quite a bit with David Sanchez on saxophone, Antonio Sanchez on drums, and Scott Colley on bass. I always look forward to those gigs," says Brecker. "I'm doing more with Conrad Herwig, featuring myself and [pianist] Eddie Palmieri. We recorded that, so that's going to be coming out sometime soon. There's talk about going to Japan with that group."

Also new for Brecker, and his wife Ada, is a daughter, due in December.

"So I'm going to try to stay home more. My idea this coming year is to write a new record. I don't know which direction it's going to go or what it's going to come out like. I'm trying to stay home and stay off the road a little, because I've been traveling a good eight or nine months a year over the last three or four years—quite often with [Ada] in the band. She's going to be home taking care of our little girl, and I'm going to try and stay home more and just write. Come up with a new project."

In his aforementioned love-hate relationship with the trumpet, it's good for music fans that love conquers all.

"I'm enjoying writing and playing as much as ever. I'll be 63 in November. The horn's feeling real good. I sound like a [baseball] pitcher, but the horn's feeling really good. I'm playing it a lot and practicing more than ever. It's a hard instrument and always a challenge. You've got to put the time in, especially when you get up in years. It keeps me busy."

Selected Discography
Randy Brecker, Randy in Brasil (MAMA Records, 2008)
Bill Evans/Randy Brecker, Soul Bop Band Live (BHM Productions, 2006)
Randy Brecker with Michael Brecker, Some Skunk Funk (Telarc, 2005)
Randy Brecker, 34th N Lex (ESC, 2003)
Eliane Elias, Kissed by Nature (RCA Victor, 2002)
Randy Brecker, Hangin' in the City (ESC, 2001)
Mingus Big Band, Essential Mingus Big Band (Dreyfus Records, 2001)
Randy Brecker, Into the Sun (Concord, 1997)
Brecker Brothers, Out of the Loop (GRP, 1994)
Brecker Brothers, Return Of The Brecker Brothers (GRP, 1992)
Brecker Brothers, Straphangin' (Arista 1981)
Brecker Brothers, Detente (Arista, 1980)
Jaco Pastorius, Invitation (Warner Brothers,1979)
The Average White Band, Feel No Fret (RCA, 1979)
John Mayall, Bottom Line (DJM Records, 1979)
Brecker Brothers, Don't Stop The Music (Arista, 1977)
Brecker Brothers, Back To Back (Arista, 1976)
Heavy Metal Bebop, The Brecker Brothers (Arista, 1978)
Brecker Brothers, The Brecker Brothers (Arista, 1975)
Horace Silver, In Pursuit Of The 27th Man (Blue Note, 1972)
Dreams, Imagine My Surprise (Columbia, 1971)
Dreams, Dreams (Columbia, 1970)
Blood Sweat & Tears, Child Is Father To The Man (Columbia, 1968)

Photo Credit
Top/Bottom photos: Courtesy of Randy Brecker

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