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Brecker, Michael

jazz band brothers album

Brecker, Michael, pop-jazz tenor saxophonist, brother of Randy Brecker; b. Philadelphia, March 29, 1949. He grew up in a musical family and his father is a jazz pianist. As a child, he shared his brother’s love of R&B; he began playing the clarinet at seven, switched to alto sax, and then tenor. He studied under Vince Trombetta and Joe Allard and Charles Banacos in the mid 1960s, and cut his teeth in local bands before being turned onto jazz through the recordings of Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, and John Coltrane while studying at the Univ. of Ind. Michael originally intended to become a doctor, but one of his teachers convinced him that he should be in music. In 1970, after about one semester, he left college and joined Randy in N.Y.; his first professional work was with Edwin Birdsong in another R&B outfit which also featured Billy Cobham, who soon became a close friend and accomplice of both brothers. They also both made the first of a number of hard- driving recordings with Hal Galper, first as part of his Guerrilla Band and later as part of an acoustic jazz group. Later that year, the Brecker s formed the fusion group Dreams, which recorded two albums for Columbia Records before disbanding in 1971. Michael and Randy would continue to work in tandem, teamed together in 1973 as the front line for Horace Silver’s quintet, and again in 1974 recording and touring with Cobham. In 1975, they formed a funk-based band and released their debut album as The Brecker Brothers . Over the next six years, The Brecker Brothers would release six widely acclaimed albums, earning seven Grammy nominations along the way. Described by the New York Times as having “the most valid blend of jazz and rock than any group has yet achieved,” the two brothers created, according to Down Beat, “the most widely recognized and most influential horn sound of the 1970s.” That sound appeared to be a development of wind parts to be found in early Kool and the Gang and instrumental JB’s albums c. 1969-74. During the late 1970s, Michael became one of the most sought after session musicians and played on a freelance basis with everyone from Charles Mingus, James Taylor, Horace Silver, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Yoko Ono’s touring group, and a series of Average White Band albums. In 1977, Michael and Randy opened up a jazz club in lower Manhattan called Seventh Avenue South, a place where all the great names on the scene would stop by and play. Around 1979-80, he was recruited by Joni Mitchell to join with an all-star band including Pat Metheny and Jaco Pastorius to tour and record Joni’s acclaimed album Shadows and Light and a concert video. At Seventh Avenue South, the band Steps evolved through some informal late-night jams between Michael, Mike Mainieri, Steve Gadd, Don Grolnick, and Eddie Gomez. Conceived in 1979 as an acoustic ensemble, the quintet grew into a high-powered fusion band with the advent of MIDI technology and later changed their name to Steps Ahead. Brecker consulted with Nyle Steiner, inventor of the EWI (electronic wind instrument), a wind-driven synth controller that put MIDI at his fingertips and used his own custom built model until Akai released the EWI commercially. He recorded six albums with the band, three under the name Steps, and three under the name Steps Ahead. Michael also continued touring and recording as a soloist and sideman on various projects, working with Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Jaco Pastorius and arranger Claus Ogerman. During the period 1980–81, he overcame a longstanding problem with heroin addiction by going through a rehab program. His busy studio schedule has included work with Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, Steely Dan, and Bruce Springsteen. He took up the role of bandleader on Michael Brecker, an album released in 1987 that was named “Jazz Album of the Year” by both Downbeat and Jazziz magazines, and nominated for two grammys; it was the No. 1 album on Billboard’s Jazz Chart for 21 weeks. In 1988, Brecker’s second solo album, Don’t Try This at Home, won the Grammy for “Best Jazz Instrumental Performance.” In addition to headlining around the world with his own band, Brecker took time out that year for a stint as featured soloist with Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters II band. He toured with Paul Simon as featured soloist to support the Rhythm of the Saints album. Once back home in 1992, Michael reunited with his brother Randy for a much anticipated world tour and GRP recording, Return of the Brecker Brothers . Three Grammy nominations and a year of touring later, the brothers returned to the studio in the fall of 1994 to record Out of the Loop . This time not only did they win the Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance, Michael won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition for “African Skies.” In addition to touring throughout the U.S. and Europe in 1995, the Brecker Brothers were the first international contemporary jazz group to perform in the People’s Republic of China, playing before sell-out crowds in Beijing and Shanghai. In 1995, he toured with McCoy Tyner. In the summer of 1997, he played with Pat Metheny at the Montreal Jazz Festival and in Japan in August 1997. As of June 1998, he has appeared on over 450 albums. A true virtuoso, Brecker has gone from early work in fusion and jazz-rock to one of the most in-demand studio musicians, accompanying all kinds of artists, to one of the most influential saxophonists today in all idioms including acoustic jazz. Heavily influenced by Coltrane, he uniquely adapted many of Coltrane’s methods for use in fusion and funk contexts.

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