Photo Credit: Gediyon Kifle
From his mellow tones on the opening tune "Body and Soul," its clear that listeners are in for a real treat as trumpeter and flugelhornist Randy Brecker joins our host for another edition of Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center. Dr. Taylor's opening remarks introduce an artist whose versatility is the hallmark of a rich and varied career. As Dr. Taylor's explains, "Randy Brecker has worked with everyone from Horace Silver, Art Blakey and Herbie Hancock, to Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and John Lennon." From there Randy joins Dr. Taylor's trio for a crisply swinging rendition of "Love For Sale."
Randy Brecker comes from a musical family. Influenced by a piano-playing father he describes to Dr. Taylor as a semi-professional. Randy's brother Michael is a much-acclaimed and accomplished tenor saxophonist. The Breckers are part of the strong tradition of jazz musicians from the city of Philadelphia. "Philly was just a great breeding ground for musicians, and I marvel at the amount of players that come from that town.... and very creative, original players," Randy explains. The list of Philadelphia jazz musicians alone is overwhelmingly impressive, not to mention contributors to other musical forms. Dr. Taylor asks Randy how he and Michael became "pioneers" in the fusion of jazz, rock music, and other elements in the 1970s. Randy suggests unequivocally that he owes it all to growing up in Philadelphia with its great jazz, rhythm & blues, and rock & roll scenes. He also reveals that when he grew up, the rhythm & blues radio station was right next to the jazz radio station on the dial.
In their wide-ranging discussion of Randy's diverse musical experiences, all with his jazz foundation firmly in place, Randy delights the audience with humorous accounts of how quite often in recording sessions, the featured artist isn't wasn't even in the studio when he and his fellow instrumentalists were recording. When talk turns to Randy's main instrument, the trumpet, and how he achieves such a personal sound, Randy talks about the rigors of the instrument, as the audience laughs at his recollection of how he wound up "stuck" with a trumpet when they passed out instruments in grade school.
Considering his many experiences across musical genres, an audience member wonders how Randy goes about learning tunes yet maintaining a fresh approach. According to Randy: "It's a "catch 22" where you try to learn as much as you can, but when it comes time to actually do it, you have to empty your mind and relax...." In addition to such engaging conversation, Randy joins Dr. Taylor's trio to perform his own tribute tune "There's A Mingus, A Monk Us" (written in tribute to Charles and Thelonious), which prompts a question from an audience member on the influence of Mingus. "He's among America's greatest jazz composers," Randy declares. Additionally they perform such classics as "Days Of Wine and Roses," and Horace Silver's hard bopper "Nutville."