Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Randy Brecker Interview, Part 2

Randy Brecker's music is part of my life. He has been one of my main idols for 43 years! So, I'm proud and honored to post the second part of this interview with the most recorded trumpet player in music history.
Arnaldo: In recent years, you have released several albums with big bands and even symphony orchestras. Let’s talk about them, starting with “The Jazz Ballad Song Book,” recorded in Copenhagen with the DR Big Band.

Randy: Asked to play by my friend Chris Minh Doky who was musical director and also we had been playing together in Mike Stern’s band. So I flew over at the last minute to Cope, did one rehearsal in the morning that I flew in, recorded everything the next day without listening to playbacks, did one concert the next night and then flew home. Had almost forgotten about the whole thing, but months later Minh sent me some roughs and I thought ‘wow this stuff sounds great’ so we mixed it long distance with the help of George Whitty in California. Jeff Levenson of Half Note Records put it out. It got nominated for 4 Grammys! Fine writing/playing on that one!

Arnaldo: How these projects are born? Your management approaches the bands or they contact you? Do you usually have plenty time to rehearse or all the process is very fast like happened with the CTI All Stars, when you arrived for the first concert at Montreux a few hours before the concert and with no prior rehearsal?

Randy: Usually they are born with the director of each band. They have to come up with a program each year, and usually there is very little rehearsal time. Exceptions to that are the NDR and WDR Big Bands in Germany, because they are a full time operation and have rehearsals as part of the deal.
Arnaldo: In 2013, you released that wonderful album with Wlodek Pawlik and the Kalisz Philharmonic. How did it came about? That piece was written specifically to you? Is there a video of live performances?

Randy: Yes, it was written for me. We had done a previous similar project, “Nostalgic Journey,” with another Orchestra, that came out well, so Wlodek approached me with this idea. There is also a live video released in Poland where we performed the piece live and on TV on their version of the Grammys after it won the Grammy in LA. It also won ‘Record of the Year’ in was a big deal over there!
Arnaldo: Two other magnificent projects came out in 2015: “Dearborn Station” with the DePaul University Ensemble (opening with an amazing big band arrangement of Squids), and “Trumpet Summit Prague” with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.

Randy: My old friend from DePaul University, trumpeter Bob Lark, put that one together. Every so often, they do a live project at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase in Chicago, so I played 4 nights and they recorded a couple of the nights. The band was just great and the club was packed…another great CD! "Trumpet Summit" was fun too and also a wonderful CD organized by Jan Hasenrohl who plays trumpet in, and runs the Czech Nat’l Symphony. They also do a lot of film work, it's a great orchestra. It was such a great honor to play with Jan and Bobby Shew!
Arnaldo: It’s great to listen to you playing standards like “Well, You Needn’t” and “On Green Dolphin Street” on the “Dearborn Station” CD. Did you ever consider a solo album playing standards exclusively?

Randy: Yes that will be coming soon. I have never done a standards, blowing, record so that is in the pipeline for maybe next year.

Arnaldo: Please tell us about “Village Dawn” and “Creature of Many Faces”, your two compositions on “Trumpet Summit Prague”. Do you consider yourself an underrated composer like I do?

Randy: Well I don’t think along those lines, but I just love to write things that I can play on. It also helps me find my musical identity!
Arnaldo: I love your DVDs with Jaco Pastorius, with his sextet and the other one in Tokyo with the Word of Mouth big band. How was your relationship with him?

Randy: We were very close and I miss him very much. Our Dads were friendly too, since Jack, Jaco’s dad, lived near Philly so they played together a bit too..Jack was a singer and my dad Bobby was a singer, songwriter and piano player. Both the sextet (with Bob Mintzer, Peter Erskine, Don Alias, Othello Molineaux) and the big band (with Toots Thielemans as special guest) were wonderful.
Arnaldo: That previous question remembered of an album on which you played with Jaco and Michel Colombier: Flora Purim’s “Everyday Everynight” in 1977. Which are your recollections of that album? Besides being a member of the brass section in several tunes, you play a short beautiful solo on the title track!

Randy: Well, we recorded the brass section (with Mike, David Sanborn, Jon Faddis, Raul de Souza) at the Sound Ideas Studio in New York. Flora was there and she directed the whole thing and gave me that solo since, as she said, she “wanted to hear my music!”
Arnaldo: Claus Ogerman, who is a God for me, passed away last March. Of course, Michael was closer to him, because they had recorded three magnificent albums together. But you played so beautifully on their last one, for GRP. Did you met Claus or just overdubbed your parts later with [producer] Tommy LiPuma?

Randy: Overdubbed the part. We were both overdubbed on that one- but Claus was there! He was fantastic and truly missed. No one else like him.
Arnaldo: In 2013, you have put together that Brecker Brothers Band Reunion. How did you chose the band members? That DVD is superb, and I was amazed to see that the new tunes (like First Tune of the First Set, Adina and Stellina) are in the same level of the “old” Brecker Brothers classics. And that’s why I say you are an underrated composer… What’s your “method” to write a tune? The melodies just came in your mind or do you seat to work and create a song structure first?

Randy: Well, I wanted to choose guys I had been playing with recently that had also been in the band at some point in time, hence the personnel that I came up with… Yes it was fun to write new material with the Brecker Bros style in mind. No real method so to speak. Sometimes I have a melody. Sometimes, a set of changes or maybe a bass line or rhythm. Then I put together a puzzle of ideas, sometimes working from the inside out and rework stuff many many times. It’s almost never finished really… don’t really work with a grid or structures, and just sit at the keyboard for long periods of time. It’s also like a craft…you have to put the time in, and not wait for so-called ‘inspiration’…
Arnaldo: It’s so beautiful to see you playing live with Ada Rovatti, the way you look to each other in mutual admiration and respect. When and how did you met? When did you marry? And how old is Stella now? Is she still playing violin?

Randy: We met 20 years ago on a gig with me and Swiss trumpet master Franco Ambrosetti fronting a great Italian big band that she was in. We got married 15 years ago, December 22 in New York City. Stella will be 8 on November 12th and is playing the violin, singing and dancing.
Arnaldo: Michael was one of the best musicians that ever lived. Like you do, he was always able to achieve a balance between his tremendous technique and emotion. Everything he did was brilliant, I never heard a non-superb solo by Michael. Neither by you. How it happens? How are you able to play always soulful solos that are perfectly built?

Randy: Well, probably both of us would disagree with you! Haha! But Mike spent hours upon hours practicing and listening and working on music…  and so do I! I like to practice 2 or 3 hours a day at home.
Arnaldo: Like me, millions of people in the world felt devastated with Michael’s death and his long period battling that disease. How did you deal with all of this? When you play a Brecker Brothers Band Reunion concert, you feel sad somehow? Or the personal sadness doesn’t affects the playing?

Randy: I’m very proud of my brother’s accomplishments in Music and Life and it’s just wonderful to keep his memory alive at live concerts. Of course at the same time we will always miss him…so it’s bittersweet but he also became a great composer in his own right, so it’s so much fun to play his tunes!
Arnaldo: Right now I can’t stop listening to your “RandyPop!” album. Terrific solos and those superb Kenny Werner’s arrangements. How the idea for that album came up? Which was your criteria to chose the final songs?

Randy: It was Ada’s idea a long time ago, then Jeff Levenson from the Blue Note NYC had a similar idea - we had done a project together featuring singer Roseanna Vitro that Kenny arranged: old pop songs she liked re-arranged, so I thought of him immediately - that’s right down his alley. So I sent him a bunch of stuff I had played on back in the day,  and he chose the ones that spoke to him. Yes, he totally ‘de-ranged’ the songs, just like I wanted!
Arnaldo: I’m deeply impressed with the vocal performances of your daughter Amanda Brecker on “RandyPop!” Not only a beautiful voice, but powerful interpretations. Did you support her decision to become a professional singer? Have you played on her live gigs?

Randy: Have played on her videos and records. Yes, it’s something she’s always wanted to do, and now she’s also a successful NYC real estate agent so she has the best of both worlds. She co-wrote a project with Kurt Rosenwinkel that I have yet to hear, but it will be out soon. A Brazilian flavored CD!
Arnaldo: A new Brecker Brothers Reunion Band just came out in Japan, recorded during a 2014 world tour, when you played in Brazil for the last time. Which is the repertoire?

Randy: I call it the “Heavy Metal Bebop Band” with legendary drummer Terry Bozzio, bassist Neil Jason, guitarist Barry Finnerty (the original guys on the 1978 album for Arista) and me and Ada. Features almost all tunes from that record -- Sponge, Inside Out, Squids, Some Skunk Funk, East River -- and new tunes by Barry (Mikey B), Ada (Ghost Stories), and Terry (Under Surveillance). Record live at a rock styled club in Tokyo, the Club Citta, and it's being released only in Japan by Ward Records.
Arnaldo: Besides the international tours, you've been playing a lot in the U.S. recently, right?

Randy: Playing tomorrow with drummer Chris Parker trio here in NYC and then flying to Japan. Did a nice CD with his trio called "Blue Prints - The music of Arif Mardin," produced by Arif's son Joe and with liner notes by Quincy Jones! I'll also play in China, and then back to New York for a gig as a guest with pianist Bradley Young in tribute to Chet Baker, on October 27th.
Arnaldo: Which are your next recording projects?

Randy: “Brecker Plays Rovatti.” Going to record all of Ada’s new tunes which are great and original. So it’ll be a Brecker /Rovatti co-billed CD for the first time! Then hopefully a quartet blowing record of standards, finally... THEN maybe another Brecker Bros Band Reunion with some of my tunes if I ever write them. It’s hard to write when you know you are not going to be paid, like the old days, so I’m spending more time on the horn and traveling these days. The Biz has changed a lot… I always wrote for fun, but also for $! So we’ll see! I’ll get around to it sooner or later…promise!

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