It’s been five years since saxophonist Michael Brecker died of leukemia at age 57, ending a deep musical bond with his trumpeter brother, Randy.
This weekend Randy is revisiting the music the siblings made with the pioneering Brecker Brothers jazz fusion group, assembling some alumni for dates at the Blue Note in New York.
They include guitarist Mike Stern, drummer Rodney Holmes, bassist Will Lee and keyboardist-producer George Whitty. On sax is Randy’s wife, Ada Rovatti, from Morata, Italy. Vocalist Oli Rockberger will also play keyboards.
“It’s nice to celebrate Michael’s life and the history of the band with the musicians who worked with him,” Randy, 66, said in a telephone interview from his Long Island, New York, home.
Born in Cheltenham Township near Philadelphia, Randy recalled his years as a music student at Indiana University. He said he would pass along his professors’ wisdom to his younger brother.
“I probably learned more from Michael than he learned from me,” he said.
Michael later followed his brother to Indiana University and then to New York. The Breckers recorded six albums that earned seven Grammy Award nominations between 1975 and 1981.
Regarded by some critics as one of the most influential saxophonists since John Coltrane, Michael won 15 Grammy Awards during his career. “Pilgrimage,” his CD released four months after his death, won the Grammy for Best Instrumental Album for 2007.
The brothers reunited two decades ago to record “The Return of the Brecker Brothers” (1992) and “Out of the Loop” (1994). Stern, who has worked with Miles Davis and Blood, Sweat & Tears, said he enjoyed touring with the Breckers after the release of “The Return.”
“They were funny, and sometimes they would squabble with each other,” Stern said by phone. “You could almost picture them as kids in their room fighting over a toy.”
For the Blue Note gigs the band will play signature tunes such as the frenetic “Some Skunk Funk,” “Sponge” and their classic, “Straphangin’.” They’ll also play one of Stern’s most heartfelt compositions, “Common Ground,” from his 1991 CD, “Odds or Evens.”
“Toward the end of Michael’s life, he was listening to some of the old records we made, and he said to me, ‘You know, we were pretty good together, we were pretty good,’” Randy said. “Michael was a giant of a musician.”
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