Randy Brecker: 'The best producers/arrangers were jazz musicians'

Samedi 21 Juin 2014

Interview. Randy Brecker will play live with The Brecker Brothers band Reunion at the New Morning in Paris on 18 July 2014. He tells about jis career, the Brecker Brothers band, his brother Michael Brecker, Brazil and Poland.

You used to play in a great deal of pop/rock/soul/funk sessions in the 70’s and 80’s. What do you remember of these moments?

Well most of it went in one ear and out the other! So many sessions! It was a nice way to make a living in NYC without having to travel all the time. The musicians/writers/arrangers were always first rate and I also contracted horn sections and did some horn section writing for artists like Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, George Benson etc...those were fun years, I was also getting a chance to play Jazz whenever I felt like it, at our Jazz Club 'Seventh Ave South' with Cedar, Slide, Al Foster, and many others. That club was where Steps Ahead was born.We also had our Brecker Bros Band as a creative outlet, and we would tour on weekends and in the summer. So it was the best of both worlds. It was a hang! There were several clubs like Seventh Ave South, Bradley's and Mikell's where you could go and stay the whole night and musicians from all walks of life would mingle: Hiram Bullock talking to Cecil Taylor etc. NYC doesn't have that any more.

You have played different kind of music in your career. Do you consider yourself as a jazz musician?

Short answer: yes. Jazz is behind everything I do, and is more influential in pop and soul music than one would think because the best producers/arrangers were jazz musicians. think Quincy Jones, Arif Mardin,and Berry Gordy etc..and the musicians playing on the records were jazz musicians at heart...the Funk Brothers in Detroit, the Wrecking crew in LA and all the cats in NYC, Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis, Maceo,Brecker Bros, Steve Gadd... jazzers all!

As a solo artist you recorded two Brazilian albums. Do you remember you discovery of Brazilian music?

I heard Herbie Mann on the radio in Philly, where I was born, talking about his recent trip to Brasil, and how much he fell in love with the music in the early 60's...then then he played some of this music and I went wow! What beautiful melodies and what incredible harmony and the rolling infectious samba.... I was probably around 17 at the time...

Then in 1979 I went to Brasil with the Mingus Dynasty and stayed in Rio for an extra 3 weeks. every day I said to myself 'I'm leaving tomorrow' but I would put it off for another day...met many great musicians like the late great trumpeter marcio montaroyas and guitarist Ricardo Silviera... I heard Elis Regina live and also Hermeto Pascoal... it was life altering. Later when I was married to eliane eliasfrom '83- '89 I went to Brasil many times...I'm playing there in August at a big festival near Rio. Both my Brasilian CDs won Grammys: Into the Sun and Randy in Brasil.

Why did you reform the Brecker Brothers?

It was time for me to officially pay tribute to my late brother and the other Brecker Bros. Band members who have left us...there are too many and they were all my best friends. Also I had a wealth of new material in that style... I was also asked to play at the Blue Note NYC for a week and they gave me a list of musicians to try and get... and the guys I ended up with all were in the Brecker Bros band at one time or another...Will Lee, George Whitty, Dave Weckl and Mike Stern... I suggested to the Blue Note that as a 'subtext' they could mention that everyone at one time, played in the Brecker Bros Band... next thing I know it says 'Brecker Bros Band Reunion' on the marquee!...we ended up filming for a DVD and everything sounded so good I decided to also do a studio CD and release both bundled together-a great deal!

Some songs by the Brecker Brothers were very experimental. How would you define your music?

Well the main idea was to get Mike Brecker and Dave Sanborn, who I had gone to music camp with when we were 15, and who had just moved to NYC, together in a horn section (with me too!). I wrote 9 tunes and arrangements in which I tried to combine elements of jazz, funk,rock and pop that had influenced me as a boy growing up in Philadelphia, and had coalesced during my time in NYC...I, also for the most part, taught myself how to play piano, and had basically a self-taught sense of harmony, so I took a lot of chances writing and the concept wasn't out of a textbook in was in my head!

Which of the Brecker Brothers’ albums are you particularly proud of?

Well I like all of them except for parts of Don't Stop the Music where we lost focus trying to have a hit and hired a producer, who was more interested in hiring his friends and doing tunes he owned, than really producing us. But probably Heavy Metal Bebop is my favorite. We had wanted to put that band back together before Mike passed, and it's finally come a reality!..everyone was free: Terry Bozzio, Neil Jason and Barry Finnerty and wanted to do it! so its an extreme pleasure to bring it to Paris! We will be killin'!! 'East River'!

Your wife Ada Rovatti replaced your brother Michael in the band. Does she play the song in the way Michael used to play them or does she play with her own style?

The other piece of the puzzle that made everything fit, or I wouldn't have attempted this, was the fact that I was married to a wonderful saxophonist Ada Rovatti, who although influenced by Mike (and what saxophonist wasn't influenced by Mike?)she had her own voice and her own harmonic conception....she was the hit of the week at the blue note, and I'm sure everyone will enjoy her interpretations of these songs.

Your often go to Poland these days. Do you feel any particular bond to this country?

Well I'm a Polish Jew on my mother's side ('Tecosky') and when my brother was ill and looking for bone marrow donors, my Polish friend composer and pianist Wlodek Pawlik helped us try and find donors by tracing our roots to the area Tykocin, where our family was from. Eventually he wrote a piece for me+orchestra after Mike died, called Nostalgic Journey and I went there to perform and record it. More recently he wrote another orchestral suite for me entitled Night in Calisia which we also recorded and it won a Grammy! Poland has a very robust Jazz/Music scene, so I go where the gigs are! You can tour around for 3 weeks just in Poland ...Every little town has a Jazz Club...plus there are fantastic musicians there.

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Boris Plantier