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Catching Up With

Randy Brecker: A Fusion Legacy

By Published: November 4, 2013
"It was like deja vu happening all over again. At first I kind of resisted. I said, 'Man, I don't know if this is a good idea,' But I got talked into it," recalls Brecker. "In retrospect, it was a great week. The place was beyond packed. People responded to it. I did a tribute to Mike and did a couple of his tunes. But I also premiered some of the stuff I had been writing. Ada, once again, really rose to the occasion and played her butt off. She was really the secret weapon, the star of the band. If she wasn't there, a member of the family now, if she and I didn't have a special relationship" the band might not have taken shape after that gig. But, "It seemed like the right thing to do. So we went ahead and recorded all the music the next week. Jeff had the idea to video it. That's how it all came about."

It grew into a successful through the summer and one that has geared up again. The band is strong, rocking and improvisational.

Rovatti, in preparation for the tour this time, did transcriptions of Michael Brecker''s solos. "I was trying to see how he was approaching a solo. And also his own compositions we were playing. It's amazing to see how he was developing his solo. He's going to be forever an inspiration." She says the gig " Is hard, because of the comparison. Everybody remembers how great Mike was. It's a quite uncomfortable pair of shoes to wear. But it's a great experience because I have a chance to play music and play with musicians who are the best out there. I try to grab every single moment and try to improve my playing and my ideas. The best thing I can do is be true to myself and be myself on the stage. Disregard what people expect and everything that comes with the comparisons and everything that comes with that spot... It's a great learning experience."

Adds, Brecker, "An aspect of Ada I enjoy is that she has her own harmonic and melodic conception. I didn't want someone that sounded like Mike, per se. She's coming from her own place. It wouldn't have felt right to have somebody that sounds like Mike. She brings her a lot to the table, in her own way."

Brecker acknowledges the never-ending inspiration of his brother, as a music-maker and a person.

"It's hard to put into words. I was there and watched all his progress from year to year. He was truly not only an innovator, but I think he's one of the few guys you can really compare to John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
and Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
, as far as his work ethic," he says. "He was always striving to improve himself. Broaden his jazz and musical vocabulary. Always studying. He studied composition. Even when he was taken ill, he had been working on something really unusual. Maybe some day some of this will see the light of day. He'd been heavily influenced by Bulgarian folk music. Particularly the way the reed players in Bulgaria—saxophonists and clarinetists—approached their instrument. He had been studying that, of all things. He had a bunch of stuff on his computer that was fascinating and unlike any other stuff he had done before. He was a constantly searching and constantly evolving player. He was a big source of my inspiration, just watching him grow."

The brothers played in some bands together before the formation of the unit bearing their name. They played with Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham
's band together, and had their own band, Dreams, that included Cobham and some stellar players whom they would later keep for the Brecker Brothers. Already, Randy Brecker was influenced by fusion bands and players. He was an original member of Blood Sweat & Tears, the very jazz-rock group formed by Al Kooper. Becker was there in the Kooper days and before singer David Clayton-Thomas.

"That was very influential. Not so much musically, but I really saw first hand how many thousands of people wanted to hear music. It opened my eyes," Brecker says. "That year I spent with Blood, Sweat & Tears, we toured the U.S. We played the Fillmore and Winterland. Opened the show for Cream and Stevie Winwood, Elton John and others. I caught a glimpse of what it could be like outside the strict little jazz community, which back then was pretty much the same as it is now: small. It was a learning experience. Musically, Blood, Sweat & Tears was fine, but I didn't get to play very much, other than the arrangements. That was the reason I originally left, to join Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
. I wanted to get into a playing situation."

Silver was "invaluable as a learning experience, not only as a player, but as a composer. Horace was one of the original—though people don't call him that—fusioneers. He was coming from bebop and funk and soul music and the music from the church. He combined a lot of the things in his own way," says Brecker.

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