Catching Up With Randy Brecker
'Every work of art is a child of its age' - Vassily Kandinsky
With modern legacies of the likes of Miles, Kenny Dorham, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan (the latter two also from Philly), Freddie Hubbard and Blue Mitchell to contend with, and it being a decidedly lead instrument, anyone picking up a trumpet in 60's Philly had serious baggage to face. Finding one's own definitive style and approach amongst the formidably indelible efforts of those then primary purveyors was daunting at best. Growing up in Philadelphia, trumpeter Randy Brecker, and brother Mike - both irrepressible prodigies - were well up to the challenge though. Originally known as half of the legendary Brecker Brother's horn section Randy started very early - 3rd grade ' both he and Mike growing up in a world of their own making, though eventually going on to punch up literally thousands of sessions together, both jazz and rock.
It was while co-fronting Horace Silver's quintet in the late 60's, with Mike that they formed 'Dreams', with Billy Cobham and John Abercrombie, a primary voice in the then emerging fusion scene and along with David Sanborn on alto, went on to become the dream team for session work of all stripes. This all brought word of their abilities to countless industry contacts and they were eventually approached to record under their own name, 'as long as we called it 'The Brecker Brothers'', Randy explains. Their album, Heavy Metal Be-Bop continues to be possibly the definitive description for what they and other progress musicians were trying to then do: organically meld the intellect and soul of jazz improvisation with the sheer power of rock into a cohesive, convincing statement. The immediate popular and critical acclaim, sales figures and the four Grammy nominations they received for their first album alone may best answer that question.
By the mid-late 70's the Brecker Brother's became so successful - on the scale of the very name rock bands for which they opened - and were often compared with other horn led groups like Average White Band, Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears (for whom he led the horn section). There's a story that's almost an urban legend among musicians, indicative of the level their fearsome prowess and success as well as its effect on other bands. If true, apparently when opening for Procol Harum in Europe, while onstage before that group, the Brecker's board levels were tampered with in an insecure effort to keep the opening act from blowing them off their own stage. Basically, all you were said to have heard was Mike's tenor.
Even if it never happened, it could've and with so many other groups in that situation. The Breckers alone or together, were and are that formidable a sonic force, as attested on sessions as disparate as those with Aerosmith, AWB, George Benson, BST, James Brown, Eric Clapton, Dire Straits, Donald Fagen, Bob James, Elton John, Ricki Lee Jones, Chaka Khan, BB King, John Mayall, Lyle Mays, Jaco Pastorius, Parliament, Robert Palmer, Lou Reed, Diana Ross, Todd Rundgren, Dave Sanborn, John Scofield, Carly Simon, Paul Simon, Sinatra, Springsteen, Steely Dan, James Taylor, Dave Weckl, Steve Winwood, Johnny Winter and Frank Zappa. And that's the short list. The only one shorter would be the list of those with whom they haven't played.
Since then the multi Grammy-winning trumpeter has released a number of notable efforts including the The Jazztimes Superband co-led with Bob Berg, Dennis Chambers and Joey Defrancesco, the acoustic In the Idiom, with Joe Henderon, Ron Carter and Al Foster, Live at Sweet Basil with Bob Berg, Joey Baron and Dave Kikowski, Hangin' in the City with Mike Brecker and Richard Bona and the Grammy-winning Into the Sun with David Sanborn and Gil Goldstein. He and Mike have continued to tour and record sporadically as the Brecker Brother's Band whenever possible, record and work with a select group of other artists as sidemen and enjoy their rightful place at the top of music's creative pyramid.
Appearing every bit the retro bopper today, beret and beard ever present, Brecker's energy belies his extensive experience as he appears on a couple of impressive new releases including his own 34th 'n Lex and Bill Evan's Big Fun (not to be confused with Miles' recording of the same name). Both are intelligent, high-energy excursions on the German ESC label.
It was a great pleasure to have the chance to speak with a literal musical icon. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for Randy Brecker
AAJ: Hello, Randy. Hope this is still a good time.
RB: Yeah, I was just warming up, doing long tones before you called.
AAJ: So what's up with the Randroid persona? That's a great site; hilarious (when its up). RB - Well, that's just an alter ego, a persona; things that I used to do.
AAJ: Kind of tongue in cheek...
RB: Yeah. Very much so. (see cover of Hangin' in the City )
AAJ: Do you maintain your own sites?
RB: Not www.randybrecker.com but www.randroid.com, I do. It's been awhile though.