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Interview with Randy Brecker

July 2, 2013 1 comment

Jazz Music in a nutshell has become globalized with all the attendant influences that brings to the table..it’s not just ‘American’ music anymore.

Brecker 1The next interview is a very special one. How to introduce Randy Brecker? He has done it all. His discography is too large to publish, also is the list of tremendous people he played with. Nowadays he is one of our finests trumpetplayers. A short biography:

“Born (1945) in Philadelphia to a piano-playing father, Randy’s musical talent was nurtured and encouraged from an early age. He began playing R&B and funk in local bar bands while in his teens, and developed an ear for Hard Bop through his father’s record collection.

Randy attended Indiana University from 1963-66. Randy began his foray into jazz-rock by joining Blood, Sweat and Tears. He worked with BS&T for a year and played on their Innovative 1968 debut, ‘Child is Father to the Man.’

Randy left BS&T to join the Horace Silver Quintet. ” In 1968, Randy recorded his first album as a leader, ‘Score’, which also featured a young and then unknown 19 year-old tenor saxophonist named Michael Brecker.  In ’74, the brothers joined Billy Cobham’s group, Spectrum, with whom they recorded several albums, and by 1975 they were ready to front their own band.

The Brecker Brothers were to become a band of immeasurable influence and impact. Hailed by pop and jazz critics alike, their first album ‘The Brecker Brothers’ (Arista), which Randy produced, wrote, and arranged, was nominated for four Grammys. The Brecker Brothers went on to record a total of six albums and garner seven Grammy nominations between 1975 and 1981.

After the Brecker Brothers parted in 1982. Randy recorded and toured extensively with Jaco Pastorius, recording the famous ‘Word of Mouth’ album, a live concert in Japan. In 1986, Randy produced, composed and arranged his first acoustic jazz album, ‘In the Idiom’, for Denon Records, with Joe Henderson, Dave Kikoski, Ron Carter, and Al Foster.

In the summer of 2001, Randy reunited with his brother Michael for a Europe tour with an acoustic version of the Brecker Brothers. In 2004 Michael took ill with a rare form of leukemia known as MDS.

The following years Randy found a balance between touring the world with his own bands and guesting onstage and in the studio with a wide array of artists.

Randy’s newest CD, ‘Randy in Brasil,’ was recorded in Sao Paulo with a full complement of great Brazilian musicians and released in 2008.”

(read further at Randy’s website:http://www.randybrecker.com/)

Mr.Brecker, you’re active in music for more than  5 decades. How has jazz music evolved since you started performing? Is jazz the right label for your music?

My own music has become more refined, more world influences have crept into the picture, and my vocabulary I like to think, has grown a bit.

Call it whatever you want, it’s all ‘jazz’ to me….never liked or thought of labels, I just think ‘music’ good or bad.

Jazz Music in a nutshell has become globalized with all the attendant influences that brings to the table..it’s not just ‘American’ music anymore.

Also technology comes into play now in the recording process, practicing and writing and that has a resulting effect upon the music.

 Your father took an active role in your music education. Heplayed the piano. Do you recognize his influence in the way you look at (your style of) jazzmusic today?

Sure, he will always be my biggest influence since I have his genes…he is in everything I do. His own music/lyrics was steeped in the traditions of the 40s and 50s. He loved Brubeck , Clifford Brown, and the trumpet as “the greatest jazz instrument”- he told me that many times. Clifford and Max’s home base was a club in Philly and Dad heard them many times. I remember the day Clifford and Richie Powell was killed in the auto accident.

If you want to hear a song Dad (Bobby Brecker) wrote for me when I was 2 weeks old (!) check out the ‘suite’ on my CD “Into the Sun”…he plays and sings: “The Hottest Man in Town” where he prophesies not only that I’ll be the ‘hottest man in town’ but also that that I’m going to be a musician, play a “horn or maybe hot fife, and  love that music even more than your wife!”

You first gained recognition playing with pianists Duke Pearson and Horace Silver from between 1967 and 1972. What have you learned from playing with them?Brecker 2

Bandleading technique, especially from Horace, who gave us some latitude, but when he wanted a funky solo he meant it, and if we were recording and you played too many notes he would stop the take. Duke was also a great and under-rated composer and arranger who signed me to Solid State Records and produced my first record ‘Score’. I like to think I taught him something about funk on that record, but he sure taught me about voicings, harmony and composition, as did Horace and both also taught me how to construct a concise solo. Also both of these great musicians knew their job as bandleaders and recording artists were to sell records to the public (high quality music) but structured to communicate to people at large, and not just other musicians, so I learned that early on in my career.

Both were great composers who had the ability to translate the events and feelings of their lives into music, so I took that to heart when I started to lead and write for my own bands. Also  Horace in particular was not afraid to go outside the genre and fuse elements of folk, gospel,funk and soul into his compositions, every one of which had that particular ‘Horace’ harmonic and melodic touch, no matter how complicated or simple the tunes were!

Your first album (as a leader) was Score (1969). How do you look back at this album?

brecker 4I think it was a formative period for all of us, but with that consideration in mind, I think it’s a pretty good first record. Mike Brecker at age 19! Some nice Randy Brecker and Hal Galper tunes….Larry Coryell, Eddie Gomez, and Mickey Roker then “Pretty” Purdie and Chuck Rainey on some tunes-pretty cool!… and some new ground broken.

You played with great bassist-bandleaders like Charles Mingus and Jaco Pastorius. How do you look at the bass as a leading instrument?

If the bass player has as  strong a voice on and off-stage as those 2 did, they can be as out- front as anyone else.

They were also of course great composers so their instruments also fit like a glove into the larger picture.

Charlie Parker. This year it’s fifty-eight years ago he has died . Sheila Jordan said last month to me in an interview: “people don’t talk about him anymore,The younger generation of jazzmusicians say they are inspired by Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Parker is a forgotten part of jazzmusic. That’s a pity, because he is an inportant part of the jazztradition.” Do you agree with her?

Not really-he’ll always be deeply ‘embedded’ in the music especially the way he played eighth notes and swung, although Miles and Trane had a more ‘modern’ take on things, (whatever that means 60 years later)…modal playing and in Miles’ case electricity and his mental flexibility put him/them more in the forefront of today’s conceptions. Pure ’bebop’ is kind of locked into a time period, but it’s still a thing of beauty, and I always strive to play it better….it’s my roots and it’s what I practice, since strictly speaking in that context there are right and wrong notes. Then in performance the idea is to interact and ‘take it out’!brecker 5

Miles Davis, has been a great example for you. What did you learn from the music of Miles?

How to tell a story in as few notes as possible. Sound comes first. Take chances. Fuck whatever anyone else thinks. Rehearse as little as possible since as he said :’ You can’t rehearse the future!”

Which musicians are you inspired by nowadays?

You got me on that one…there are too many or none at the same time.Everyone has a CD in their pocket and we’re inundated with web-sites, you-tube, and social networking – which I don’t do as a matter of principle…so it’s hard to focus on one or two people let alone several musicians. Mostly I listen to the old guys-they had that special charisma….they were anti-establishment, usually as high as a kite, crazy in many ways, but it was all about  Music and Swinging and not about networking…but having said that, there are thousands of up and coming musicians,from all over the world who are great players, but finding that  individual ‘voice’ seems to be a harder proposition these days, maybe because there are so many jazz programs in schools that churn out students who know and can play the history from Louis Armstrong on, and have a lot of technique, which I respect, but haven’t thought that much about original new conceptions or directions. Now having said thatthat’s where the ‘world music’ element creeps in, and I do find inspiration from young musicians from other far flung countries who bring their own indigenous music into the mix.

For instance younger cats play the shit out of odd time signatures and have the all current technological advances in their fingertips! Also I must mention that the best of the younger crop who stay in bebop mode, play so well and so musically that the fact that you’ve kind of heard it all before is transcended by the excellence and pure musicality of their improvisations…brecker 3

You played a lot with pop musicians, like Todd Rundgren, Stevie Wonder, Lou Reed and Bruce Springsteen. Carla Bley said once “I think rock and roll is jazz. And jazz is classical music. And classical music has become rock and roll. They’ve all gone round one turn on the clock” (1972) Has the clock turned again since then?

It’s always turning, that’s what keeps everything interesting….it’s all a continuum as Jaco’s tune suggests..I think what Carla was saying is that catagories are useless.

In 2012 you wan a Grammy Award (again!), this year (b.o.) Chick Corea is a Grammy winner, which jazzmusicians would you propose for the Grammy Awards in 2014?

Not following or concerned with things like that any more, especially since a couple of years ago NARAS decided to pull the plug on some of the lesser so-called catagories and also put ‘contempory’ jazz and  ‘real’ jazz in the same catagory which makes the whole thing even more ridiculous than it was in the first place….but I’m sure Chick and Pat will win a few more since it’s mostly a popularity contest….not that they don’t always deserve something for their outstanding contributions to music. The Grammys makes for a nice TV show if you keep the sound off!

Your musical activities span a wide range of styles and combinations. Which projects do you have in store for us?

1.  ‘Brecker Brothers Band Reunion’ features all members who played in the band at one time or another, like  Dave Sanborn , Mike Stern,Dave Weckl, Will Lee, Adam Rogers,Rodney Holmes, Chris Minh Doky, Mitch Stein etc..studio CD and accompanying ‘live’ at the Blue Note NYC, DVD…

My wife Ada Rovatti featured on saxophone..keeping it in the family, and newcomer Oli Rockberger who co-wrote  2 of the tunes and sings on a couple of tracks.

Produced by George Whitty who also played keyboards…all new tunes in that style. My man Randroid also makes a couple of appearances….will be out SOON

2.  ‘RandyPOP!’ ‘Hits’ I played on as de-ranged by Kenny Werner..w/Amanda Brecker (daughter) vocals..will be out next year sometime.

Adam Rogers,David Sanchez, John Patitucci and Nate Smith.

Kenny Werner piano…recorded live at the Blue Note NYC….interesting charts and a lot of inventive live interactive playing.

3.’Night in Calisia’… Collaboration with my friend Polish composer and pianist Wlodek Pawlik…his wonderful Suite featuring The Kalisz Philharmonic,the Wlodek PawlickTrio and me as soloist. Should be out in August.

Is there jazz in the future? Jazz  has been for the most part well documented by now, but do you think jazz will reach our youth?

There will always be jazz music but only for intelligent minds, young,old, or in between.

And that’s the way it should be!

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Interview with Jerry Bergonzi

 I don’t think jazz has enough other names. It is so much music lumped under one small word jazz.  The music nobody likes.

Last week I had a beautiful interview with Jerry Bergonzi.

bergonzi 1

[Jerry Bergonzi] first gained recognition as he became a frequent guest-artist on several Dave Brubeck- ensemble tours and recordings during the 1970s, and he held the saxophone chair in the Dave Brubeck quartet from 1979 – 1982. Bergonzi recorded nine albums with Brubeck, from 1973 to 1981.

Bergonzi teaches at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston

He is the author of the Inside Improvisation, a multi-volume series of instructional books with play- along CDs and videos, and another series of books about improvisation published by Advance Music. He is also the author of the book/CD set Sound Advice, published byJamey Aebersold Jazz. Bergonzi is also a professional level pianist and bass guitarist.he New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

He has recorded on the Blue Note, Red, Not Fat, Concord, Atlantic, Label Bleu, Enja, Columbia, Deux Z, Denon, Canyon, Cadence, Musidisc, Ram, Ninety One, and Freelancerecording labels. (wikipedia.org).

Among the many other artists that Bergonzi has performed and recorded with are; John Abercrombie, Nando Michelin, Antonio Farao, Bill Evans (with the National Jazz Ensemble), Joe D’Orio, Eddie Gomez, Miroslav Vitous, George Mraz, Billy Hart, Andy Laverne, Steve Swallow, Hal Galper, Roy Haynes, Charlie Mariano, Bob Cranshaw, Ray Drummond, Billy Drummond, Danny Richmond, Danny Gottlieb, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Paul Desmond, Bennie Wallace, Gerry Mulligan, Hal Crook, Herb Pomeroy, Mike Manieri, Mark Johnson, Michel Portal, Martial Solal, Pat Martino, Franco Ambrosetti, and many more. (read further: http://www.jerrybergonzi.com/bio/)
Mr.Bergonzi, you’re active in music for more than  4 decades. How has jazz music evolved since you started performing? Is jazz the right label for your music?

How has Jazz evolved in 4 decades.  4 decades ago Jazz Education was in it’s infancy. Now it is a huge business. Now everybody knows everything. The information boom has young people being more proficient on the intillectual plane but maybe lagging in others.

Your uncle took an active role in your jazzeducation. He wrote out jazz solos for you to play and he made you listen to Count Basie, Lester Young and Duke Ellington. Do you recognize his influence in the way you look at (your style of) jazzmusic today? 

 I don’t think jazz has enough other names. It is so much music lumped under one small word jazz.  The music nobody likes.
My uncle didn’t really have a conscious effect on me as much as he was just a musician who lived one flight up and he wrote out a few solo’s but my family was into jazz. Why?  I have no idea.

Your first album (as a leader) was Jerry On Red (1988). How do you look back at this album?

Jerry on Red was my first opportunity as a leader.  I was on the road in Italy and Sergio Veschi (the owner of Red) wanted to know if I wanted to record a record the next day. So we went into the studio and just put them down.bergonzi 2
You first gained recognition playing with Dave Brubeck from 1973 to 1981. He died last december. What have you learned from playing with Mr. Brubeck?
When I lived in New York City in the 70’s, no one wanted to put out Jazz records.  When I was with Dave Brubeck, I never met a producer, a festival manager, a record company consultant, a club owner or anyone as Dave existed in a bubble of only Brubeck. So I was very happy to make CD’s for Red.

Since 1996 you have recorded a lot with organist/pianist Dan Wall and drummer Adam Nussbaum. A trio without a bassist. What is it like to play without bassist?

It is challenging to play with organ and drums as sometimes it is difficult to hear a really defined bass. That being said, Playing with Dan Wall and Adam Nussbaum was total joy for me. We couldn’t get arrested with that group never mind a gig.

In 2008 you recorded your album Napoli connection. Last week I visited this beautiful city for the second time, so I’m interested…what is your connection with Napoli? 

My mother’s family is from Naples and my father’s from Parma.Naples is like no other place in the world. I can’t put it into words but it is a city of passion. (and great pizza)
You’re a full professor at NEC. “I’m the eternal student, myself; I think that’s what makes me a good teacher,” you said to jazztimes in an interview (2008). What do you learn nowadays?

I learn just as much from my students as they learn from me. They have their own way of doing things. In a way, they are a reflection of what is going on in today’s music as that is what inspires them. So I get to hear that reflection and learn a great deal. People ask me where is music going and I tell them to ask the youth.

Charlie Parker. This year it’s fifty-eight years ago he has died . Sheila Jordan said in jacnuary to me in an interview: “people don’t talk about him anymore,The younger generation of jazzmusicians say they are inspired by Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Parker is a forgotten part of jazzmusic. That’s a pity, because he is an important part of the jazztradition.” Do you regard yourself as a part of this jazztradition?

Do I consider myself part of Jazz Tradition? I do but only because I love that music. I don’t really care if someone else loves the tradition. There are enough who do. Go with what your passion and heart tell you. Students ask me who they should transcribe and I ask them “Who do you Like”  After a while you realize the lineage in the music.

Is there jazz in the future? Jazz is the most recorded musicstyle by now, but do you think jazz will reach our youth? According to saxophonist and flautist Dave Liebman the future of jazz lies with how it will be absorbed and transformed by parts of the world where it is new to the people. Do you agree with him?bergonzi 3

I never disagree and Lieb, as he is always right. In other parts of the world where everything isn’t just dollars and there is still an artistic value, I think jazz can be alive.

Next week I interview trumpetist Randy Brecker . Do you have a question for him?

My question to Randy is “What is his favorite Italian dish” .

Your musical activities span a wide range of styles and combinations. Which projects do you have in store for us?

I have a few records in the can.  One will be out on May 21st It is called “By Any Other Name” it is all tunes written on standard chord changes. Phil Grenadier on trumpet, Will Slater on bass and Karen Kocharian on drums. I have a CD with Dick Oatts coming out called a Granny Winner and another Quintet CD called Rigamaroll.
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