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Michael Brecker: Pilgrimage & Seraphic Light

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Michael Brecker Pilgrimage Heads Up International 2007 Saxophone Summit Seraphic Light Telarc 2008

Michael Brecker (tenor sax) was a musicians' musician, with jaw-dropping chops and a unique and highly influential harmonic and melodic style. Pilgrimage, his last recording, was made shortly before he passed on Jan. 13th, 2007 from myelodysplastic syndrome. Despite failing health this is a fine effort, one his best. The band is A-1: Pat Metheny ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Brecker: Pilgrimage

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Michael Brecker is said to be the most influential tenor saxophonist in jazz since John Coltrane. A thirteen-time Grammy award winner who has achieved numerous other honors, he was a fixture on the scene from the early 1970s until his death earlier this year. With his brother, trumpeter Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker performed with Horace Silver's quintet before the pair started their own fusion group, The Brecker Brothers. Brecker later joined drummer Steve Gadd in forming Steps Ahead with vibraphonist Mike Mainieri. In addition to a successful solo career, Brecker has performed and/or recorded with contemporary jazz ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Brecker: Pilgrimage

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If there's any solace to be gained from the dramatic, heart-rending final months of Michael Brecker's life, it's that perhaps some of the attention bestowed upon this towering musician and exemplary human being will be directed to the vital African-American art form that he influenced and contributed to. As recently as 1990, the average life span of jazz musicians was estimated to be 43, with the cases of saxophone legends Charlie Parker (who died at the age of 34) and John Coltrane (40) more often held up as typical rather than exceptional. It's difficult to recall the case of a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Brecker: Pilgrimage

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Tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker lost his ongoing bout with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a rare bone marrow cancer, in January 2007. Pilgrimage provides one last chance to hear him in the company of like-minded souls. Joined by a who's who of mainstream jazz royalty, guitarist Pat Metheny, pianists Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Jack DeJohnette accompany the saxophonist on this superlative session.

Brecker began his career as a session player in the early 1970s, something he continued to do throughout his career, to the chagrin of jazz purists. Having accompanied everyone from James Taylor ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Michael Brecker: Pilgrimage

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Michael Brecker Pilgrimage Heads Up International 2007

The importance of saxophonist Michael Brecker's final recording, Pilgrimage, is densely multidimensional. The romantically inclined will attach significance to the fact that the nine compositions were conceived and recorded while Brecker was aware of the gravity of his final illness. Pilgrimage falls into an artistic/musical category that includes such disparate music as Mozart's Requiem, Puccini's Turandot, Billie Holiday's Lady In Satin and Johnny Cash's American Recordings, Volumes 5 & 6. All of these examples were conceived during the artists' autumnal periods and, in these cases, represent something ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Brecker: Pilgrimage

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Michael Brecker's tragic death in January 2007, at the age of fifty-seven, robbed the world of perhaps the most influential saxophonist to emerge since the equally untimely passing of John Coltrane. It's easy to forget that he was one of the pop/rock world's most called-upon studio players, recording on hundreds of albums with artists including James Taylor, Paul Simon and Eric Clapton. But it's his prodigious body of work in the jazz realm that will be his most enduring legacy.

It's easy to want Pilgrimage to be one of Brecker's best recordings out of a purely emotional response to his ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Michael Brecker: Celebration of a Healer

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Michael Brecker Memorial Town Hall, New York February 20, 2007

Town Hall was the scene for a spirited memorial service for Michael Brecker, universally acclaimed as one of the most influential jazz sax players since John Coltrane--and certainly among the most productive and ubiquitous: think of a name in innovative jazz or pop, and chances are Brecker's sax has been in the studio or on stage with them--from McCoy Tyner to Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock to Bruce Springsteen, from Elvin Jones to Joni Mitchell, Frank Sinatra to Steely Dan, from Joe Lovano to Donald Fagen, Dave ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Memories of Michael Brecker: Town Hall Tribute

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Michael Brecker Memorial Town Hall, Manhattan February 20, 2007

Last night, my companion Stefania and I took a train ride from Connecticut into Manhattan to pay homage to a fallen musician. Michael Brecker, the prolific and well respected saxophonist, had passed away five weeks prior at a hospital in New York after a long-standing battle with MDS (myelodyplastic syndrome). It was a little publicized memorial at Town Hall in midtown Manhattan, and I for one, went there with little expectations other than to honor the memory of a musician who had over the years given ...

INTERVIEWS

Michael Brecker: He Can Groove Any Way You Want

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(This article was originally published in August 1998)

Once one half of the world renowned Brecker Brothers and full time studio legend, tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker relinquished that throne to form a group and deliver his own material. Though the Coltrane influence is present in spirit, its simultaneously transcended, skewered even, by the sheer strength and personality of Brecker's tone and seemingly infinite permutations of major seventh laden linear expressions.

Although he might disagree, it no longer seems strange to include Brecker's name alongside those of his other influences:

Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter. A whole generation of ...

INTERVIEWS

Essential Michael Brecker

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(This article was first published in November 1999)

Michael Brecker's contributions to music are generous and, like the pregnant ideas that flow from his tenor horn, they continue to grow. At 50, the saxophonist has found acceptance in a wide variety of musical settings, having performed with pop stars like John Lennon, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, and jazz heavyweights the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Charles Mingus, and Jaco Pastorius. Brecker's resume includes extensive work as a studio musician, a tour of duty in Horace Silver's band and teaming up with this brother, Randy, to form the critically acclaimed ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Brecker / David Liebman / Joe Lovano: Saxophone Summit: Gathering of Spirits

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Normally when you hear the words “three tenors," you think of opera singers. In this case, three tenors--in addition to a soprano and a few other instruments--refers to the saxophone, which is perhaps the coolest voice in jazz. Saxophone Summit brings together the voices of Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano and Dave Liebman, a true Gathering of Spirits. All three play tenor sax on a few tracks, but Liebman plays the soprano sax on others. Saxophone “battles" have traditionally inspired musicians to play their best. But this gathering is a multi-faceted musical equation that's greater than the sum of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Brecker/Dave Liebman/Joe Lovano: Saxophone Summit: Gathering of Spirits

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You could argue that every post-Coltrane recording of serious saxophone music has been informed by the legacy and spirit of the man himself. Yet it takes a musician (or musicians) of a particular stature and gravity to pull off an explicit tribute by interpreting some of his legendary compositions without sending you straight back to the originals. You could also argue that no single saxophonist is up to the task. So, the Saxophone Summit gives you three. On Gathering of Spirits , Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano, supported by rock-solid drummer Billy Hart, longtime Liebman collaborator ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Brecker: Wide Angles

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Assembling fifteen top jazz musicians to play complex original material is risky business. The session could turn into a repetitive solo showcase or conversely lose its sharpness amidst overproduced arrangements. However, Wide Angles, from tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, comes off as an adventurous presentation of new music in a format rife with possibilities. With a string section, English horn, bass clarinet, flute, French horn and oboe among the traditional big band mix of drums, bass and brass, Brecker keeps things amazingly focused. Aside from the expected tenor wizardry, the Gil Goldstein arrangements and orchestrations give Wide Angles ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Herbie Hancock - Michael Brecker - Roy Hargrove: Directions in Music

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True jazz enthusiasts are often purist by nature. So most of them tend to entertain remakes and tribute documents with a certain amount of trepidation. But enthusiasts and purists alike need not be concerned about the Hancock/Brecker/Hargrove document, Directions in Music: Celebrating Miles Davis and John Coltrane ' Live at Massey Hall.

From the downbeat of the opening tune, “The Sorcerer," Herbie Hancock reminds us why he was and is one of the most sought after pianist in the genre. His deftness, technique and mastery of the instrument and the music holds this group together with the same ...



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