Welcome to a new season of the Music Column with William Price King and the first headliner today is Jazz Saxophonist and Composer Michael Brecker (1949 – 2007)
Michael Leonard Brecker (March 29, 1949 – January 13, 2007) was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. He was awarded 15 Grammy Awards as both performer and composer. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Berklee College of Music in 2004, and was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 2007.
Michael Brecker was born in Philadelphia and raised in Cheltenham Township, a local suburb. Born and raised in a Jewish family, his father Bob (Bobby) was a lawyer who played jazz piano and his mother Sylvia was a portrait artist. Michael Brecker was exposed to jazz at an early age by his father. Brecker began studying clarinet at age 6, then moved to alto saxophone in eighth grade, settling on the tenor saxophone as his primary instrument in his sophomore year.
He moved to New York City in 1969, where he carved out a niche for himself as a dynamic and exciting jazz soloist. He first made his mark at age 20 as a member of the jazz-rock band Dreams–a band that included his older brother, trumpeter Randy Brecker, trombonist Barry Rogers, drummer Billy Cobham, keyboardist Jeff Kent and bassist Doug Lubahn. Dreams was short-lived, lasting only from 1969 through 1972, but Miles Davis was seen at some gigs prior to his recording Jack Johnson.
Brecker was in great demand as a soloist and sideman. He performed with bands whose styles ranged from mainstream jazz to mainstream rock. Altogether, he appeared on over 700 albums, either as a band member or a guest soloist. He put his stamp on numerous pop and rock recordings as a soloist. Discover more about his work with the top rock and jazz musicians of the 70s and 80s: Wikipedia
Let’s hear some music from Michael Brecker
“Pilgrimage” recorded in 2006, was the last studio album by Michael Brecker due to health issues. Heavyweights Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau, John Patitucci, and Jack DeJohnette accompanied him on this final production. All of the compositions were Brecker originals and are considered his best work. The album represents a remarkable end to an equally remarkable musical life. It is cohesive and focused, and his phrasing is more acute than ever. “Pilgrimage” won two Grammys, one for ‘Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group’, and one for ‘Best Jazz Instrumental Solo’ with the song “Anagram”
“Song for Bilbao” dedicated to audiences in Bilbao, Spain and composed by Pat Metheny, is from the album “Tales from the Hudson” This album was recorded at the Power Station in New York City in 1996 and released on the Impulse label. Brecker is accompanied by Pat Metheny on guitar, Jack DeJohnette on drums, Dave Holland on bass, Joey Calderazzo and McCoy Tyner on piano, and Don Alias on percussions. The melodies are memorable and varied, providing a great vehicle for improvisation and the solos are just as creative as one would expect from Michael Brecker’s recordings.
“Peep” from the album “Now You See It … (Now You Don’t)” 1990, is a fantastic up-tempo mixture of fiery cymbals, and visceral funk that snaps into a thunderous rock rhythm with the help of Jay Anderson on bass and Adam Nussbaum on drums, yielding an amazing solo between Brecker and Nussbaum. Brecker appears to be more confident as a songwriter, which reflects his growth as an improviser as well as his identifiable tone on his instrument “Now You See It … (Now You Don’t)”is a very different and captivating album which relies on technology and percussion, with some tracks having as many as three percussionists in addition to the drummer. This is one of Brecker’s major works and certainly one well worth hearing.
“Some Skunk Funk” was recorded live by the Brecker Brothers in 2003 in Cologne, Germany, shortly before Michael Brecker was diagnosed with the myelodysplastic syndrome. They were joined by the WDR Big Band,* offering a fusion of bop and groove in the jazz tradition. Michael’s metallic sound is riveting and the most distinctive on the album, with luxurious tones, bluesy high notes, accelerated harmonic runs, and rich jazzy grooves.
*WDR Big Band – a sophisticated jazz ensemble, based in Cologne, featuring an evolving line-up of some of Germany’s best musicians who are musical ambassadors charged with promoting jazz and culture at home and abroad.
Join us in two weeks for another outstanding artist from the world of music.
William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.
His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.
While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.
His debut jazz album was entitled “Home,” and was a collection of contemporary compositions he composed, with lyrics written by his wife Jeanne King. His second album was a Duo (Voice and Guitar) with Eric Sempé on the guitar. This album included original songs as well as well known standards from contemporary jazz and pop artists. The “King-Sempé” duo toured France and thrilled audiences for more than three years before going their separate ways. King has formed a new duo with French/Greek guitarist Manolis, and is now exploring new ideas, in a smooth jazz/soul/folk direction.
In addition to singing and composing, King has been collaborating with author Sally Cronin over the past few years on her blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life,” with the series “A Man And His Music – Jazz, Contemporary, Classical, and Legends” and now, the “William Price King Music Column.” Working with author Sally Cronin has been an exhilarating experience in many ways and has brought a new dimension to King’s creative life. King has also created a micro blog, “Improvisation,” which features and introduces mostly jazz artists from across the jazz spectrum who have made considerable contributions in the world of jazz; and also artwork from painters who have made their mark in the world of art. This micro blog can be found on Tumblr.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé. King has a distinctive wide-ranging voice which displays a remarkable technical facility and emotional depth.
My thanks to William for the amazing artists he has brought to the blog and thank you for dropping in today. As always your feedback is very welcome.