Tenor saxophonist and composer Michael Brecker is an eleven-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, Michael is among the most studied instrumentalists in music schools throughout the world today.
Born into a musical household in Philadelphia in 1949, Michaels father played jazz on the record player for his sons and took Michael and his older brother Randy to see, among others, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington. While Randy took up trumpet, Michael launched his studies on clarinet and alto sax; moved by the genius of Coltrane, Brecker switched to tenor sax in high school. After studying, as did his brother, at the University of Indiana, Michael moved to New York City, landing work with several bands before co-founding the pioneering jazz-rock group Dreams in 1970. In 1973, Michael joined his brother in the frontline of pianist/composer Horace Silvers 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 owned and 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 formation of Steps Ahead. With Peter Erskine later replacing Gadd, the all-star quartet recorded seven albums while ascending to worldwide acclaim.
Michael has recorded over 900 albums and performed with a virtual Whos Who of jazz and pop giants in the 70s and 80s, including McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Chet Baker, George Benson, Quincy Jones, Charles Mingus, Joni Mitchell, Jaco Pastorius, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Steely Dan, Pat Metheny and Frank Zappa. Michael cut his first record as a leader in 1987. The 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 1990s Now You See It ... Now You Don't, and subsequently being a featured soloist on tour for a year and a half with Paul Simon, Michael reunited with Randy for 1992s Return of the Brecker Brothers. The Breckers Out of the Loop (1994) and Michaels Tales From the Hudson (1997) put additional Grammys on the saxophonists shelf, leading to Michael being named "Best Soloist of the Year" by JazzLife and "Jazz Man of the Year" by Swing Journal. At about the same time, Michael appeared on Herbie Hancocks The New Standard and McCoy Tyners Infinity (from which he won 2 Grammys), followed by extensive touring with each piano titan.
In 1998 Brecker releaased Two Blocks From the Edge and 1999 marked the arrival of Breckers Time Is of the Essence (featuring Metheny, organist Larry Goldings, and drummers Elvin Jones, Jeff "Tain" Watts and Bill Stewart). Breckers seventh solo album, Nearness of You: The Ballad Book, featured a dream ensemble of fellow jazz giantsPat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnettewho had never before recorded an album together. Produced by Metheny, with legendary singer-songwriter James Taylor adding his voice to the peerless musical alchemy on two tracks, 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 Japans Swing Journal, which has the largest circulation of any jazz magazine in the world. It also won a Grammy. In June 2002, Brecker, Hancock and Roy Hargrove released Directions in Music, a live concert at Toronto's Massey Hall, which celebrates the music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Directions In Music won a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. The Directions project recently performed for hundreds of thousands of concertgoers, making it among one of the highest profile jazz events in recent years.
Brecker began 2003 creating his first large ensemble record. Wide Angles features the 15-piece Michael Brecker Quindectet, and the album has appeared on dozens of Best Jazz Records of the Year lists and won two Grammys in February, 2004. Brecker took his New York based quindectet on a sold-out tour of Japan. In the summer of 2004, he will lead a quindectet tour throughout Europe.
Breckers accomplishments assure that his career will forever be intertwined with the history of music. Jazziz magazine said it best: "Youll find no better example of stylistic evolution than Michael Brecker, inarguably the most influential tenor stylist of the last 25 years."
On the 13th of January 2007, he passed away in a New York hospital of leukemia. He was 57.