JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C. --
The Airmen of Note's 2019 Jazz Heritage Series recently wrapped up with its final guest, Grammy award-winning trumpeter Randy Brecker. Playing to a sold-out audience at Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall on the campus of Northern Virginia Community College on March 22, the "Note" and Brecker brought the house down.
Playing music from the legendary Brecker Brothers group and also some more recent compositions from the pen of Mr. Brecker, the ensemble punctuated a star-studded guest series for the season. In addition to Randy Brecker, this year's Jazz Heritage Series also featured New York trombonist John Fedchock and bass virtuoso Christian McBride.
For weeks leading up to the concert, the Note rehearsed and polished the arrangements to be played with Brecker. Some even brought in brand new arrangements of his music, like “Tokyo Freddie,” arranged by Master Sgt. Jeff Martin. “Great chart, Jeff- and the band is smoking!” remarked Brecker after the first rehearsal run through.
Many members of the Airmen of Note grew up listening to Randy and his late brother, Michael Brecker, as part of their group "The Brecker Brothers." For all of the band, playing side by side with Randy on their classic compositions was a dream come true. The program included famed Brecker Brothers songs including “Strap-Hangin’,” "Some Skunk Funk,” “Song for Barry,” “Above and Below,” and “Rocks.”
When asked about his busy schedule, Brecker commented with a wry smile, “I’m lucky to get to play with a lot of college bands around the world, but I’ve been looking forward to playing with the Note for a while. Not too often I get to do big band gigs with real cats!”
Constantly touring, recording, and appearing as a guest can certainly wear any musician thin, sometimes taking a toll on their “chops,” but Randy seems immune to this. “I have kind of a routine that helps keep me in shape," he shared. "Lots of classical music and trumpet methods keep my chops up…plus I still like to play along with records.”
Born in Philadelphia’s Cheltenham suburb, Brecker was raised in a musical household. His father was a jazz pianist who encouraged both Brecker brothers to pick up an instrument, and he would frequently jam in the family living room with his sons.
Aside from these family sessions, Randy began formal studies with some local musicians. “I used to go up and study with some of the classical trumpet guys in Philly," Brecker recalled, "and I met a lot of kids my age who were into the music, too.”
After attending Indiana University’s famed Jacobs School of Music, Brecker moved to New York City and quickly starting to work with Duke Pearson, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, and Clark Terry. He would soon be touring with Blood, Sweat & Tears for a short while, followed by periods with pianist Horace Silver and drummer Art Blakey.
Not long after these gigs, the group "Dreams" formed, breaking ground in the jazz-rock fusion world. Many of the members would lead successful solo careers, including the Breckers, who soon formed their powerhouse group.
Randy Brecker’s solo career has continued to grow, recording 19 albums as a leader and appearing on countless recordings as a sideman. In addition to his whirlwind performing schedule, Brecker is an avid educator, frequently giving clinics and workshops at universities and music schools around the world.
After the Friday performance, Brecker remarked, “I’ve got a few days off, but then I’m travelling again for a while. Really glad to have gotten to do this, man. What a treat!”
The band feels the same way, as does the Jazz Heritage Series audience. Electrifying the room from start to finish, Randy Brecker and the Airmen of Note put a bow on yet another successful year of guest artist collaborations.