class of 1967
inducted in 1996
Grammy Award-winning Jazz
A 1967 graduate of Cheltenham High School, Michael Brecker
is a major figure in contemporary instrumental music, tenor saxophonist and
composer. Brecker is a
eight-time Grammy-winner, and the first to win "Best Jazz Instrumental
Performance" and "Best Jazz Instrumental Solo" two years in a
row. As a result of his stylistic and harmonic innovations, Brecker is among the most studied instrumentalists in
music schools throughout the world today.
Most recently, Brecker has released his seventh
solo album, Nearness of You: The Ballad Book, featuring a dream ensemble of
fellow jazz giants: Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette. The album is produced by Pat Metheny, with legendary singer-songwriter James Taylor
adding his voice to the peerless musical alchemy on two tracks.
Born into a musical household in 1949, Brecker's
father played records by Dave Brubeck and Clifford
Brown and took Michael and his older brother Randy to see Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, and many other jazz
icons. While Randy took up trumpet, Michael launched his studies on clarinet
and alto sax; moved by the genius of Coltrane, Brecker
switched to tenor in high school. After studying, as did his brother, at the
University of Indiana, he made the mandatory move to New York City, landing
work with several bands before co-founding the pioneering jazz-rock group
Dreams in 1970. In 1973, Brecker joined his brother
in the frontline of pianist/composer Horace Silver's quintet. The following
year, the siblings branched off to form the Brecker
Brothers, one of the most innovative and successful jazz-funk fusion bands of
the decade. Michael and Randy also operated the popular downtown Manhattan jazz club Seventh Avenue South. Jam sessions with keyboardist/vibes
player Mike Maineiri, bassist Eddie Gomez, and
drummer Steve Gadd led to the 1979 formation of
Steps Ahead. With Peter Erskine later replacing Gadd, the all-star quartet recorded seven albums and
ascended to worldwide fame during the 1980s.
Brecker has recorded and performed with a virtual
Who's Who of jazz and pop giants in the 70s and 80s, including Chet Baker,
George Benson, Dave Brubeck, Don Cherry, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Freddie
Hubbard, Quincy Jones, Charles Mingus, Joni
Mitchell, Jaco Pastorius,
Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Steely Dan, Tony Williams, and Frank Zappa,
and cut his firstrecord as a leader in 1987.
That solo debut, Michael Brecker, was voted Jazz
Album of the Year in both Down Beat and Jazziz magazines.
Its follow-up, Don't Try This At Home, garnered Brecker
his first GRAMMY. After investigating new rhythmic concepts on 1990's Now You
See It ... Now You Don't, and subsequently touring for a year and a half with
Paul Simon, Brecker reunited with Randy for 1992's
Return of the Brecker Brothers. Out of the Loop (1994) and Tales From the Hudson (1997)
put additional GRAMMYS on the saxophonist's shelf, leading to Brecker being named "Best Soloist of the Year"
by JazzLife and "Jazz Man of the Year" by
Swing Journal. He also bolstered his star-studded resume with appearances on Herbie Hancock's The New Standard (Verve) and McCoy
Tyner's Infinity (Impulse!), followed by extensive touring with each piano
titan. In 1997, Michael and Randy Brecker were
honored with bronze plaques on the Avenue of the Arts' Walk of Fame by the
Philadelphia Music Alliance.
His third solo album in the last four years, following 1998's Two Blocks From
the Edge and 1999's Time Is of the Essence (featuring Metheny,
organist Larry Goldings, and drummers Elvin Jones,
Jeff "Tain" Watts and Bill Stewart), Nearness of You
finds Brecker reunited with the jazz innovators who
appeared on his first two dates as a leader. Metheny,
DeJohnette, and Haden played on Michael Brecker, and DeJohnette, Haden,
and Hancock provided the rhythm section on Don't Try This At Home. But this
was the first time they all played together as a unit for an entire album.
Nearness of You was produced by Metheny, marking
the first time the guitarist has stepped into that role for any major jazz
artist other than himself and his own group.
Brecker's accomplishments assure that his time will
forever be intertwined with the history of music. Jazziz
magazine said it best: "Youšll find no better example of stylistic evolution
than Michael Brecker, inarguably the most
influential tenor stylist of the last 25 years."