A major figure in contemporary instrumental music, tenor saxophonist and composer Michael Brecker is an eight-time Grammy-winner, and the first to win both the "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 first record 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 1990Ős 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.
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.
In January, 2002, Nearness of You was named "Record of the Year," and Brecker was named "Artist of the Year" in both the Critics' and Readers' Polls of Japan's Swing Journal, which has the largest circulation of any jazz magazine in the world.
Brecker's newest release (June 2002) is Directions in Music, a live concert at Toronto's Massey Hall which celebrates the music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Directions co-leaders Brecker, Herbie Hancock and Roy Hargrove have recently performed for hundreds of thousands of concertgoers making Directions among the highest profile events in jazz in the last two years.
Brecker's accomplishments assure that his time will forever be intertwined with the history of music. Jazziz magazine said it best: "You'll find no better example of stylistic evolution than Michael Brecker, inarguably the most influential tenor stylist of the last 25 years."
Click HERE for a printable version of Michael's biography
To find out more about Michael Brecker and his recordings,
please visit his page on the official Verve Records site