Jazz trumpeter and composer Randy Brecker has helped shape the sound of jazz, R&B and rock for more than four decades. His trumpet and flugelhorn performances have graced hundreds of albums by a wide range of artists from James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen and Parliament/Funkadelic to Frank Sinatra, Steely Dan, Jaco Pastorius and Frank Zappa.
Born in 1945 in Philadelphia to a musical family, Randy’s musical talent was nurtured from an early age. He attended Indiana University from 1963-66 studying with Bill Adam, David Baker and Jerry Coker and later moved to New York where he landed gigs with such prominent bands as Clark Terry’s Big Bad Band, the Duke Pearson Big Band and the Thad Jones Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra.
In 1967, Randy ventured into jazz-rock with the band Blood, Sweat and Tears, but left to join the Horace Silver Quintet. He recorded his first solo album, ‘Score’, in 1968, featuring a young, then unknown 19 year-old tenor saxophonist named Michael Brecker.
After Horace Silver, Randy joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers before teaming up with brother Michael, Barry Rogers, Billy Cobham, and John Abercrombie to form the seminal fusion group ‘Dreams’. The group recorded two adventurous and wildly acclaimed albums: ‘Dreams’ and ‘Imagine My Surprise’ – now collector’s items – for Columbia Records before they disbanded in 1971.
In the early 1970s, Randy performed live with many prominent artists including Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House, Stevie Wonder and Billy Cobham. He also recorded several classic albums with his brother under the leadership of the great pianist/composer Hal Galper.
By 1975, Randy and Michael were ready to front their own group, the Brecker Brothers Band. A band of immeasurable impact and influence, they released six albums on Arista and garnered seven Grammy nominations between 1975 and 1981. Their eponymous first record, which Randy wrote, arranged and produced, featured his now classic composition “Some Skunk Funk.”
In 1992, exactly ten years after they parted ways to pursue solo careers, Randy and Michael reunited for a world tour and the triple-Grammy nominated GRP recording, ‘The Return of the Brecker Brothers’. The follow-up, 1994’s ‘Out of the Loop,’ was a double-Grammy winner.
In 1997, ‘Into the Sun’ (Concord), a recording featuring Randy’s impressions of Brazil, garnered Randy his first Grammy as a solo artist.
In 2001, Randy released ‘Hangin’ in the City’ (ESC), a solo project which introduced his alter-ego Randroid, a skirt chasing, cab driving ne’er do well, with lyrics and vocals by Randroid himself. This CD was especially well received in Europe, where Randy toured extensively with his own line-up.
Randy’s next CD for ESC Records, ’34th n’ Lex,’ won him his third Grammy for ‘Best Contemporary Jazz Album’ in 2003. In May of that year he toured Europe with his Quintet in support of the CD, and in the summer went back to Europe yet again with the Randy Brecker/ Bill Evans Soulbop Band.
The summer of 2003 culminated in the special headline appearance in Japan at the Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival of the reunited Brecker Brothers.
2004 saw Randy touring Europe extensively as co-leader (with Bill Evans) of the band Soulbop. The WDR Big Band also celebrated Randy and his music that year in a performance at the Leverkusen Jazz Fest. The date was of special significance to Randy as it was the last time he played with his brother, who took ill shortly thereafter with a rare form of leukemia known as MDS.
In 2005, with Mike unable to travel to Russia for Brecker Brothers gigs booked there, Randy’s wife Ada sat in for the first time. Randy’s active schedule continued apace with the Randy Brecker Band performing throughout Eastern Europe and across the globe.
In 2007, Randy was awarded his fourth Grammy for “Randy Brecker Live with the WDR Big Band” (Telarc/BHM), the live recording (also available in DVD format) of his performance with Michael at the Leverkusen Jazz Fest in 2004.
Tragically, Michael passed away that same year on Jan 13th.
2007 also saw the release of a 2 CD set of live recordings of the band ‘Soulbop’ (BHM) featuring Dave Kikoski, Victor Bailey, Steve Smith or Rodney Holmes and the late great Hiram Bullock.
Randy returned to his long-time love of Brazilian music in 2008 for the album ‘Randy in Brazil,’ which was recorded in Sao Paulo with a full complement of great Brazilian musicians and released on Summit Records. Chosen one of the top 10 CDs of 2008 by AllAboutJazz.com, the CD won the Grammy for “Best Contemporary Jazz Album,” bringing his Grammy total to five.
A “Tribute to the Brecker Brothers” featuring Randy and recorded live at the Hamamatsu Jazz Festival in Japan with Yoichi Murata’s Solid Brass & Big Band was released by JVC Victor in Japan in late 2008.
And in 2009, Randy’s roots were celebrated with the release of ‘Jazz Suite Tykocin,’ a project initiated and conceived by the Polish pianist and composer Wlodek Pawlik, featuring Randy as a soloist with members of the Bialystok Philharmonic. Tykocin is the area in Poland where Randy’s ancestors (mother’s maiden name: Tecosky) hail from, a fact that Pawlik discovered while helping to search for a bone marrow donor for Michael.
2011 saw the release of ‘The Jazz Ballad Song Book: Randy Brecker with the Danish Radio Big Band and The Danish National Chamber Orchestra,’ which garnered 4 Grammy nominations and enjoyed enthusiastic critical acclaim. And in 2012, Sony Legacy recaptured history with the long-awaited boxed set, “The Brecker Brothers – The Complete Arista Albums Collection.”
A Brecker Brothers Band Reunion tour of European festivals in the summer of 2013 in support of Randy’s Randy Brecker’s “Brecker Brothers Band Reunion” re-introduced the familiar faces of Brecker Brothers Band members from the past and their special brand of music to sell-out crowds.
As a composer, performer and in-demand Yamaha clinician, Randy Brecker continues to influence and inspire young musicians around the world.