WUSF All Night Jazz Focus Artist of the Week: Randy Brecker

Randy Brecker. Photo: Steve Splane/WUSF.

This week on All Night Jazz we’ll focus on trumpeter Randy Brecker, who turns 75 this week.

 Born November 27, 1945, in Philadelphia, Brecker’s father was an attorney, but also a semipro jazz musician who encouraged both Randy and his brother Michael to study music. At their school, however, only trumpet and clarinet were offered so Randy, being the eldest, chose trumpet and when Michael came of age, he chose clarinet in order to not copy his brother. Both went on to jazz fame.

Randy Brecker studied under noted educator David Baker at Indiana University. He moved to New York in 1966 where he found work with fellow trumpeter Clark Terry and the Thad Jones – Mel Lewis Orchestra.

In 1967 Brecker joined the jazz rock outfit Blood, Sweat and Tears. He left Blood, Sweat and Tears after one album to join Horace Silver’s band and then became a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. But his work with Blood, Sweat and Tears  helped establish him as a crossover artist and led to a couple of very historic projects.

The first was the seminal fusion group, Dreams, with his brother, Michael, and drummer Billy Cobham. Shortly thereafter, he joined guitarist Larry Coryell’s group, Eleventh House, thereby cementing his reputation as one of the pioneers of jazz fusion.

Yet Randy Brecker was just getting started. In 1975 he rejoined his brother in the jazz funk outfit, the Brecker Brothers Band, who released six albums on the Arista label. In 1977, during his tenure with the Brecker Brothers, Randy and Michael opened the New York nightspot, Seventh Avenue South.

The club was a highly influential hangout for jazz players at the time. Miles Davis was a frequent guest and it was here Randy Brecker met and later married Brazilian singer and pianist Eliane Elias. They had one child together, Amanda, before divorcing in 1990.

After the dissolution of the Brecker Brothers Band in 1982, Brecker joined former Weather Report bassist Jaco Pastorius and his Word of Mouth Big Band. The Brecker Brothers reformed as a touring entity in the ‘90s. To this day Randy Brecker has worked with a notable list of musicians and bands including the WDR Big Band out of Germany and the University of South Florida’s Chuck Owen and his Jazz Surge.

Throughout his career he’s been a guest artist on hundreds of recordings including those of Mark Murphy, George Benson, and even Paul Simon. Brecker married Italian saxophonist Ada Rovatti in 2001.Randy’s brother Michael, also a very prominent voice on the jazz scene, passed away in 2007.

Randy Brecker has won seven Grammys with 19 nominations. He continues to tour and record.

We’ll hear the soaring trumpet of Randy Brecker, all week long on All Night Jazz.


Listen: Sidedoor at the Palladium