Today i’m gonna write about my favorite music brothers and they were real brothers and not just “for the sake of the band name”. They played trumpet and saxophone, wait a minute here you keep saying “they were/they did” meaning they split up or?? Yes they did split up not beacuse of no longer beeing friends but since one of the passed away due to leukemia. The brothers are Michael and Randy Brecker.
Michael left and Randy right.
Let’s take it from the beginning with Randy born Nowember 27 1945 in Cheltenham a suburd to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a musical family. He went to the Cheltenham High School between 1959 – 1963. Later he studied at the Indiana University between 1963 – 1966. Sometimes after this he moved to New York and got to play with Clark Terry’s Big Band, The Duke Pearsons and the classic and legendary Thad Jones/Mel Lewis orchestra famous for playing many many years every Monday at the Village Vanguard jazz club in New York City. This tradition still exists today.
Randy was one of the guys who started the band Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1967 but left after the band’s first album, Child Is Father to the Man to join Horace Silver Quintet. 1968 he did his first solo album Score on which his brother Mike was featured. After playing with Horace Silver he began working with Art Blakely’s Jazz Messengers. In 1971 he teamed up with brother Mike, guitarist John Abercrombie, trombonist Barry Rogers, drummer Billy Cobham to form fusion band Dreams, see picture below.
Left to right: Billy Cobham (drums), John Abercrombie (guitar), Barry Rogers (trombone), Eddie Vernon (lead vocals), Doug Lubahn (bass), Mike Brecker, Jeff Kent (keyboards), Randy Brecker.
The band did 2 albums in the early 1970:s, first Dreams released 1970 and Imagine My Surprise released in 1971/72 then after second album the band disbanded. Randy continued making music both along with Mike but also with others. In the early 80:s Randy met brazilian singer/artist/musician Eliane Elias whom he later married. They stayed together for about 10 years, seperated in the early 1990:s and together they have agorgeous daughter Amanda who also is a singer. Now adays Randy is married to italian saxplayer Ada Rovatti and i think they also have a daughter called Stella, see pic below. Randy has been touring under the name The Brecker Brothers Reunion with wifey Ada playing the saxophone and the others are Neil Jason (bass), Terry Bozzio (drums), Barry Finnerty (guitar).
Except for Ada the other 3 guys all played and toured with The Brecker Brothers in late 1970:s. A matter of fact is that this line-up is a hommage to the Heavy Metal Be-Bop album, a live recording which was released in 1978, see picture above.
Ok time to say something about Mike as well. He was born 4 years later after Randy in 1949 in same Philly suburd. He was exposed to jazz at early age due to his father who was an amateur jazz pianist. Michael belonged to the generation of jazz musicians when they grew up didn’t see rock music as the enemie but as a viable music option. Saxophone wasn’t his first instrument to study that was clarinet and also drums! Later he began study the saxophone first alto and then eventually tenor. Mike was known as the most influential player since John Coltrane or Wayne Shorter, those two are some of the biggest icons in the history of jazz when it comes to saxophone.
Mike sometime in the mid 80:s i think.
He went to the same schools as Randy with a little difference he only stayed one year at the Indiana University before moving to New York in 1969, where he carved out a niche for himself as a dynamic and exciting jazz soloist. To say the least he was. Anyway his first mark was with the band Dreams along with Randy and a few others. As i alreday mentioned the band didn’t last long but on one a show Miles Davis was in the audience and got inspiration for his next album which became Jack Johnson.
Mike playing the EWI (Electric Wind Instrument) during a show with Paul Simon.
His early work is marked by an approach informed as much by rock guitar as R&B saxophone. Just like Randy he also worked with Horace Silver before the brothers decided it was time to form their very own band, The Brecker Brothers in 1975. They were inspired by the music of that time, jazz rock had become very popular. Thou the brothers took it a few steps forward with more structured arrangements and a heavier backbeat. Some of their songs totally and completely blew my mind big time when first heard them!! First album simply named The Brecker Brothers got released same year on Arista Records. On this one they brought some really bad New York cats, besides Mike and Randy it was Harvey Mason (drums ), Chris Parker (drums), Will Lee (bass), Bob Mann (guitar), Don Grolnick (keyboards) and friend to the brothers David Sanborn on saxophone.
The Brecker Brothers Band late 70:s. Left to right: Steve Kahn (guitar) in the truck, Will Lee (bass), Terry Bozzio (drums), Randy, Don Grolnick (keyboards), Mike, David Sanborn (sax).
The brothers continued touring and recording until 1982 when they decided to quit the band. Since i’ve heard all their albums i can tell that the earliest are the best. You can find good songs on every album but the sound is many times more pop rather than jazz/fusion/funk. Remember reading an interview with Michael many years ago where he admitted they shouldn’t have let pop producers do their albums cause it didn’t end up well. Thou you find only top notch players on each album. They did reunite in the early 90:s and made 2 albums for the jazz label GRP. Michael also joined another band in the late 70:s called Steps Ahead, see picture below.
Left to right: Eddie Gomez(bass), Don Grolnick, Mike, Mike Mainieri (vibes), Peter Erskine (drums).
Michael stayed until 1986/87 sometime and is featured on 7 albums and on the 2 last one he is exploring the EWI short for Electric Wind Instrument, which is a kind of synth saxophone which came in the mid 80:s made by japanese company Akai. Let’s make a big jump forward in time to 2004 and it was during a show in Japan Michael felt some pain in his back. Shortly after in 2005 he was diagnosed with the blood disorder myelodyplastic syndrome (MDS). Despite searching world wide no matching stem cell donator was found. In late 2005, he was the recipient of an experimental partial matching stem cell transplant. About a year later he seemed to be doing better but the treatment turned out not beeing the cure everyone was hoping for. His last appearnace was held at Carnegie Hall, New York City with jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. On January 13 2007 Michael left us and offcourse foremost his wife Susan and their daughter and son plus Randy and his family.
Posthmous on February 11 2007 he won 2 Grammys for his contribution on Randy’s album Some Skunk Funk recorded live in Cologne, Germany along with the WDR Big Band in 2005. On May 22 2007 his last album was released and received good critical response. On this album he was joined by Jack de Johnette (drums), Pat Metheny (guitar), John Patitucci (bass), Brad Mehldau and Herbie Hancock, see picture below. Stories says that Mike was very ill during the sessions thou all the other who was involved praised the standard of his musicianship. He was again posthumously awarded two additional Grammy Awards for this album in the categories of Best Jazz Instrumental Solo. All together Michael won 15 grammys.
Left to right: Mike, Brad Mehldau, Jack de Johnette, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock,Gil Goldstein (arranger, producer).
So finally time for the song i’ve choosen with the brothers. It’s taken from their second album called Back to Back, see pic below, from 1976 and the song is called Grease Piece. I can still remember the moment when i first heard it at my local record store. I’m not exaggerating at all when i’m saying that this song absolutely, completely and totally blew my mind big time!!
Those horn arrangements are out of this world, didn’t know if i should like faint or jump for joy there are simply no words to fully describe that feeling! On this song besides Mike and Randy it’s David Sanborn (alto sax), Chris Parker (drums), Will Lee (bass), Steve Khan (guitar), Don Grolnick (keyboards), Ralph Macdonald (percussion). I hope you will like this as much as i did the first time i heard it!
Enjoy your listening!!
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