Cheltenham High Class of 1967
- Michael Brecker
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Memories of Michael Brecker
Michael Leonard Brecker (March 29, 1949 – January 13, 2007) was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Acknowledged as "a quiet, gentle musician widely regarded as the most influential tenor saxophonist since John Coltrane." He won 15 Grammys as both performer and composer and was inducted into Down Beat's Jazz Hall of Fame in 2007.
During his career, he was in great demand as a soloist and sideman. He performed with bands which spanned 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. His featured guest solos with James Taylor and Paul Simon are excellent examples from this body of work. For example, on James Taylor's 1972 album, One Man Dog, Brecker's solo on the track "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" complements the other acoustic instruments and sparse vocal. Also, on Paul Simon's 1975 album Still Crazy After All These Years, Brecker's solo on the title track is used to a similar effect. His solos are often placed in the bridge, or appended as a coda. This musical structure and instrumentation typifies (and somewhat defines) this jazz-rock fusion style. Other notable collaborations in this genre include work with Steely Dan, Lou Reed, Donald Fagen, Dire Straits, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Aerosmith, Dan Fogelberg, Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa, Bruce Springsteen, and Parliament-Funkadelic.
Brecker also recorded or performed with leading jazz figures during his era, including Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Chet Baker, George Benson, Quincy Jones, Charles Mingus, Jaco Pastorius, McCoy Tyner, Pat Metheny, Elvin Jones, Claus Ogerman, and many others.
During the early 1980s, 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. After a stint co-leading the all-star group Steps Ahead with Mike Mainieri, Brecker finally recorded a solo album in 1987. That eponymously titled debut album marked his return to a more traditional jazz setting, highlighting his compositional talents and featuring the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument), which Brecker had previously played with Steps Ahead. He continued to record albums as a leader throughout the 1990s and 2000s, winning multiple Grammy Awards. His solo and group tours consistently sold out top jazz venues in major cities worldwide.
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