Wed, 13 Nov 2013

Michael Brecker: The Most Technically Accomplished Saxophonist of His Generation

Michael Leonard Brecker, more popularly known as Michael Brecker was a well-known American jazz composer and saxophonist. He was a well-acknowledged quiet and gentle musician. Michael is also widely referred to as the most important tenor saxophonist since John Coltrane. Brecker was awarded with fifteen Grammy Awards for performing and composing. In 2004, he was also awarded with an Honorary Doctorate from Berklee College of Music while in 2007; Brecker was inducted into Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.

The Tenor Saxophone Became Michael's Primary Instrument

Michael Brecker was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was raised in a local suburb in Cheltenham Township. Brecker's father, an amateur jazz pianist exposed him to jazz at a very early age. Growing up, he became a part of the generation of jazz musicians who perceived rock music as a practical musical choice instead of an enemy. Brecker started studying and playing the clarinet but when he went to school he moved and focused on alto saxophone before settling to the tenor saxophone which later on became his primary instrument.

Michael Moved to New York

Michael Brecker graduated from Cheltenham High School in 1967 and went to Indiana University. After one year in the university, in 1969, he decided to move to New York City. This is where he shaped himself as a jazz soloist. At age 21, Michael made his first mark as a member of Dreams, a jazz-rock band. His brother, Randy Brecker a trumpeter was also a member of the band along with trombonist Barry Rogers, keyboardist Jeff Kent, bassist Doug Lubahn (played bass for the Doors) and drummer Billy Cobham. They were later joined by bass player Will Lee, keyboard player Don Grolnick, guitar player Bob Mann, and singer Eddie Vernon. Dreams lasted for only one year.

The Brecker Brothers

When Dreams was disbanded, Brecker worked with Horace Silver and Billy Cobham. Then, he once again teamed up with his brother Randy to form the Brecker Brothers, a band that followed jazz-rock trends. Brecker Brothers was influenced with a heavier backbeat and stronger rock but has consistent accomplishment and musicality from 1975 until 1982.

Michael Brecker - Featured In More Than 700 Albums

After Brecker Brothers, he became in demand both as a soloist and a sideman. He was featured in more than 700 albums, either as a member of the band or a great guest soloist. Michael Brecker performed with different bands that play jazz and rock. His featured guest solos on James Taylor's Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight from the album One Man Dog released in 1972 and on Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All album released in 1975 are well-acknowledged. These solo performances are often found in the bridge. Brecker also collaborated with Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Aerosmith. He also collaborated with popular jazz musicians such as Diana Krall, Chet Baker, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Pat, Metheny, Claus Ogerman, George Benson, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Quincy Jones.

Michael Brecker Diagnosed With Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)

Michael Brecker became a band member of Saturday Night Live Band on NBC during the 1980s. He recorded a solo album in 1987 which marked his return to playing traditional jazz. The album also presented his talent in composing and featured the electronic wind instrument (EWI). Brecker went on tour with Hancock and Hargrove to show gratitude to jazz pioneers Miles Davis and of course John Coltrane. He played Naima, Coltrane's signature piece.

Michael Brecker was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a blood disorder in 2005. He was not able to find a stem cell donor but he still underwent an experimental partial matching stem cell transplant. He seemed to be recovering in 2006 but on January 13, 2007 while in New York, Brecker died from complications in leukemia. He was laid to rest two days after his death in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York City.

Michael Brecker was given two posthumous Grammy awards in February 2007. One because he was involved in an album Some Skunk Funk, his brother, Randy's album released in 2005, and one for his final recording, Pilgrimage.

Michael Brecker's greatest gift to music was that he used his technique to play with a unique tone, feel, and timing. He really could connect to an audience, and as a studio musician, he was able to deliver new solos and parts, day after day, night after night, with different artist. That's really something few musicians can do.

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