Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Michael Brecker is among that generation of jazz musician that saw rock music not as the enemy but as a viable musical option. After only a year at Indiana University, Michael Brecker moved to New York City in 1970 where he quickly carved out a niche for himself as a dynamic and exciting soloist. He picked up the gauntlet laid down by King Curtis and Maceo Parker to become the preeminent pop/R&B/funk saxophone soloist of the ‘70s and early ‘80s. He first made his mark at age 21 as a member of the jazz/rock band Dreams; a band that included brother Randy, drummer Billy Cobham, Jeff Kent and Doug Lubahn. Dreams was short-lived, lasting only a year, but influential (Miles Davis was seen at some gigs prior to his recording "Jack Johnson").
Despite the limited success of Dreams, it was apparent that Michael Brecker was a soloist to be reckoned with. Most of his early work is marked by an approach informed as much by rock guitar as by R&B saxophone. After Dreams, he worked with Horace Silver and then Billy Cobham before he and brother Randy teamed up once again. The newly formed Brecker Brothers Band played fusion that was equal parts bar band, Monk, and Sly Stone. The band followed the trail blazed by Miles Davis’ 70’s bands and Weather Report but with more attention to structured arrangements, a heavier backbeat and stronger rock influence. The band stayed together from 1975 - 1982 with consistent success and musicality.
At the same time, Brecker put his stamp on numerous pop and rock recordings with brief but energizing solos. His most notable collaborations were with James Taylor, Steely Dan, Donald Fagen and Joni Mitchell. His solos on Donald Fagen’s “Maxine” and Joni Mitchell’s version of Mingus's “Dry Cleaner From Des Moines” are particularly noteworthy. During the early ‘80s he was also a member of NBC’s Saturday Night Live band. Brecker can be seen in the background sporting shades during Eddie Murphy’s James Brown parody, “Get In The Hot Tub”.
After a brief stint co-leading all-star group Steps Ahead with Mike Mainieri, Brecker finally went solo. His eponymously titled debut album marked his return to a somewhat more traditional jazz setting, highlighted his compositional talents and featured for the first time the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument). Given a chance to stretch out on his solo projects, Brecker takes full advantage and shows off his considerable tenor chops. His following solo releases, as well as Brecker Brothers reunion albums, maintain the high standard of musicianship established on his first solo album. His bright incisive tone, jaw-dropping technique, and harmonic daring are instantly recognizable. All of this, combined with his unmatched versatility, has made him one of the most recorded saxophonists since 1975.
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