Trumpeter joins an all-star line up at 2017 Berks Jazz Fest
STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
Widely regarded as one of the jazz community’s most coveted treasures, Grammy Award winning trumpeter and flugelhornist Randy Brecker, now 71, continues to thrive as a solo artist and a highly sought after session player and collaborator.
An artist whose masterful playing knows no boundaries, Brecker’s talent has found him routinely delving into the world of jazz, rock and R&B with ease, working alongside such luminaries as Charles Mingus, Stanley Turrentine, Jaco Pastorious, Bruce Springsteen and Frank Zappa, among many others. Brecker is without question a legend in his own time.
With the 27th Annual Reading Berks Jazz Fest approaching, Brecker returns to the area for what is sure to be another memorable appearance. He performs on April 2.
“The Berks Jazz Fest has become really important,” says Brecker, from his home in New York City. “I’ve played there many times, too many to count or remember. It’s developed into a great event. The crowds are so knowledgeable and it’s such a great hang. I get to see musicians I only get to see once or twice a year. The whole thing is really a big thrill. The musicians enjoy the fans, the fans enjoy us, and it’s just one big happy family. It’s such a great time.”
“I can guarantee you for this year’s Berks Jazz Fest we have a great band that we are dedicating the whole show to my good friend and guitarist Mike Stern,” adds Brecker. “He was supposed to be there but recently had an operation to fix his shoulders and the nerve in his hand from a bad fall months back. He’s healing and we’re hoping he will be out there soon and we’re dedicating the whole concert to him.”
“I really hope everybody comes out to the concert,” says Brecker. “I think we have something really good planned. We’re doing a little of everyone’s tunes all played together throughout the years so I think it will really be something special.”
Born and raised in suburban Philadelphia, Brecker grew up in a musical family, and first picked up the trumpet at age eight. Routinely exposed to the works of Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie, courtesy of his father, the seed was planted for what has ultimately blossomed into an astonishing career.
“I came up playing a lot of different styles of music in Philadelphia, which was really a melting pot of all kinds of music from the Philadelphia Orchestra to American Bandstand,” recalls Brecker. “All those great artists from South Philly and singers that came through. Of course all the great jazz musicians that came from there, blues, rock, R&B. By the time I left Philly I had a lot of different styles under my belt so I became flexible as a player and enjoyed different styles of music. I’ve never stuck to one format or another. In other words, I try not to put the same record out year after year so they’re all kind of different.”
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A graduate of Cheltenham High School, Brecker relocated to New York City following his studies at Indiana University performing with a variety of orchestras before ultimately expanding his creative energies into the world of jazz, rock and R&B.
Forming the infamous Brecker Brothers in 1975 with his brother, the late Michael Brecker, the group released six albums on the Arista record label garnering seven Grammy nominations before disbanding in 1982. Reuniting in 1992 their “Out of the Loop” (1994) album release was a double Grammy winner. In 2012, Legacy Recordings released the boxed set “The Brecker Brothers – The Complete Arista Albums Collection.”
Randy Brecker earned his first Grammy award as a solo artist for his album release “Into the Sun” (1997). Subsequent album releases “34th N Lex” (2003), “Randy Brecker Live with the WDR Big Band” (2007), “Randy in Brazil”(2008) and “Night in Calisia” (2012) all yielded additional Grammy honors.
“When I was young my expectation was just to move to New York and be a free-lance trumpet player,” recalls Brecker. “That’s really what I did for 20 years. I was sucked into the music scene in New York pretty quickly. There was a lot of studio work. I had no idea the bulk of my work would be doing sessions and writing sessions and playing on other people’s records. Eventually I got tired of doing stuff for other people and wanted my own home base and started writing my own music and try to form my own conception which was far more successful than I ever imagined in my wildest dreams partially because we had a hit single in 1975 called “Sneakin’ Up Behind You.” That also pushed our performing career along with a studio career. When I look back on it, it seems like it’s somebody else’s life.”
“I wish I had more of an ego,” adds Brecker. “The trumpet will keep you humble. It’s a difficult instrument and some days it works and some days it doesn’t. You just have to put the time in. It certainly doesn’t get easier as you get older. It just keeps you humble. You got your good days and bad days. Sometimes you win. Sometimes the trumpet wins. It goes back and forth your whole life and then you die and the trumpet wins.”