Tag Archives: michael brecker

1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die (781-790)

21 Aug

Here is another 10 to add to the list.

Remember that there is no ranking system here, and if you don’t see your favorite jazz album yet, it doesn’t mean it won’t show up.

Hopefully these lists will inspire you to seek some of these albums out that perhaps you haven’t heard before, or revisit an old favorite. And as always, we want your thoughts on any or all of these albums. Either way, let’s get started with this week, and in no particular order, albums 771 through 780.

1. The Survivor’s Suite – Keith Jarrett (ECM, 1976) CLICK HERE TO BUY

2. A New Perspective – Donald Byrd (EMI Music Distribution, 1963) CLICK HERE TO BUY

3. Liberation Music Orchestra – Charlie Haden (Impulse!, 1969) CLICK HERE TO BUY

4. Change of the Century – Ornette Coleman (Atlantic, 1959) CLICK HERE TO BUY

5. Two Blocks From the Edge – Michael Brecker (Impulse!, 1997) CLICK HERE TO BUY

6. Sonny Rollins Plus 4 – Sonny Rollins (Original Jazz Classics, 1964) CLICK HERE TO BUY

7. The Second John Handy Album – John Handy (Koch Jazz, 1967) CLICK HERE TO BUY

8. The Kicker – Joe Henderson (Milestone/OJC, 1967) CLICK HERE TO BUY

9. Morning Fun – Zoot Sims/Bob Brookmeyer (Black Lyon, 1956) CLICK HERE TO BUY

10. Blossom Dearie – Blossom Dearie (Verve, 1956-1959) CLICK HERE TO BUY

1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die (771-780)

1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die (761-770)

1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die (751-760)

1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die – The First 750

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Four Years Since Brecker

13 Jan

Four years ago today we lost a truly remarkable musician and a very special man. 15-time Grammy winner Michael Brecker passed away January 13, 2007 after a difficult myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a cancer of the blood marrow. Brecker was one of the most talented tenor saxophonists of the last 30 years, and the most influential since Wayne Shorter.

Here are a few videos of  Michael:

More to Live For – A Documentary

20 Apr

Admittedly, I have made it clear on a handful of posts on this blog that the late tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker is one of my jazz heroes, and personal heroes.

Whether you are a Brecker fan or not, there is a very interesting new documentary coming out in June of this year called More to Live For that I came across that features Brecker, as well as two other lives shaken by cancer.

As the documentary website describes:

““More to Live For” (Director Noah Hutton) is the story of three lives, all shaken by cancer and dependent upon the one vital bone marrow match that could save them. These individuals are similar only in their fate and prolific accomplishments: Michael Brecker-15-time Grammy winner, one of the greatest tenor saxophonists of all time; James Chippendale entertainment executive and founder of Love Hope Strength Foundation, the largest music centric cancer charity in the world and Seun Adebiyi, a young Nigerian training to become the first ever Nigerian Winter Olympic athlete in any sport.

Their unrelated paths become connected in a desperate fight for survival and a singular mission: to bring awareness about bone marrow donation to the millions of people who could save a life today. A film of tragedy and loss, strength and hope. “More to Live For” presents the stories of three individuals facing life and death, and their commitment to making a difference. These deeply personal accounts of confronting illness will inspire hope and action, leaving the viewer empowered to become part of the cure.”

Funds raised by the film will go to organizing bone marrow drives around the world (over 100 are already set for 2010), will set up the first ever bone marrow registry in Nigeria, and will Spread the awareness that becoming a donor is as easy as a cotton swab in the cheek and to donate is like giving platelets or plasma.

To find out more information about the film, check out www.moretoliveforfilm.com, and you can receive updates about the film via Twitter at http://twitter.com/M2L4.

A Fly on the Studio Wall

7 Dec

One of the great things about being in my job is having the opportunity to interview world-class musicians, or introduce them on stage at concerts. Of course the chance to hear them play live right in front of me, or learn interesting things about them during an interview is amazing, but for me the most entertaining part is the discussions that happen before the tape is rolling or before the show begins.

This is the time where, even if it is only a sentence or two, I feel you can really get the coolest story of the event.

I have yet to run into sax man Joshua Redman in a bad mood backstage. He remembers names, asks about other people at the radio station by name and tells me to say hello to them for him.

While walking on stage to introduce Wynton Marsalis, one of his band members told me to wait a second because he wanted to know where the best place to eat after the show was.

The late Michael Brecker made it clear to me multiple times in one interview, after complimenting his recordings, that if I really wanted to enjoy his music, “you need to hear that **** live.”

And the great Clark Terry, after a wonderful interview and performance, was kind enough to join some of the staff and listeners for a sandwich. God bless him, as he fell asleep while I was in the middle of a sentence. In his defense, most people start falling asleep when I talk too much.

Thinking about this made me start wondering about all of the great conversations and interactions that took place “off-mic” in recording sessions that we never got to hear.

For example, to be a fly on the wall, Christmas Eve, 1954. Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk are in a recording session that reportedly almost came to blows because Miles didn’t want Monk playing during his solos. Give their recording of The Man I Love a listen, and you can almost hear the animosity. I would have loved to hear that conversation take place.

Or perhaps some studio sessions with slightly less violent interactions. How about Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington (or any recording session with either of those two guys)? I can only imagine the conversations that took place when the tape wasn’t rolling.

Certainly there are many sessions that would have been great to be a fly on the wall for, and no doubt that with all of the ones that are racing through my mind right now, I am probably forgetting some that would have been the best.

I invite you to share who you would have liked to overhear in the studio when the microphones were off.

Missing Michael Brecker

14 Nov

michael-breckerIf you’ve read my blog or carried on any conversation about jazz with me, I make it no mystery that I have a certain affection for the late saxophonist Michael Brecker.

It is rare that much time goes by where I don’t drag fellow jazz host Robin Lloyd in to hear a track that I recently found that features Brecker, or that I don’t go on a massive hunt for a missing DAT that holds an interview I did with him at Jazz Alley before one of his concerts.

The response I get from some isn’t always positive. When I chose to name Brecker as one of the tenors in my “Dream Big Band” along side John Coltrane over the likes of Wayne Shorter, Stan Getz, or Branford Marsalis (see Building a Dream Big Band Part III: The Sax Section) many scoffed and suggested that I was choosing a commercial studio sax player over a “true legend”.

The purpose of this entry is not to try and justify my reasons for my favoritism of Michael Brecker. Instead, I simply want to continue to remember a musician that had such an increadible impact on me, nearly three years after he lost his battle with MDS.

It is true that, for much of his career, Michael was a studio musician. There are those out there that feel that you are less of a jazz musician if you spent time as a studio musician recording for large commercial rock albums. Brecker is credited on hundreds and hundreds of recordings, including Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years, Aerosmith’s Get Your Wings, and Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, some of the most legendary albums in history. Does this make him less of a jazz musician because he worked for rock stars?

Of course not. But recording for these records is not what Brecker will be remembered for.

Michael Brecker, as far as I am concerned, should be best remembered for making it clear to a generation of musicians, my generation, that jazz is not your grandparents music. Furthermore, young musicians, not just sax players, had a model musician not only to inspire them, but to show them that they didn’t need to be a jock to be cool.

And that is what Michael Brecker did. He, like Coltrane, would routinely rip mind-blowing solos that were so intense and complex that it might overwhelm you, but were so impressive that you couldn’t help but smile and shake your head in disbelief when hearing them. And, like Coltrane, there was a suggestion that Brecker wasn’t a “ballad guy”, until of course, he recorded ballads, and put that rumor to rest. Let’s not forget, he is also credited with 14 Grammy awards.

There are still great tenor saxophonists recording today. Branford Marsalis might be the most artistic musician in jazz, and along side trumpeter Terrance Blanchard, Joshua Redman is easily the coolest musician in jazz, both in personality and sound.

But I remember during an interview I conducted with Joshua Redman, I asked him to play a game with me. I would name a saxophonist, and he would say the first word that came to his mind. When I sad “Sonny Rollins”, Redman said “Colossus”. When I said “Michael Brecker”, his response was over 100 words.

Brecker doesn’t have to be your favorite sax player. But give him a listen. Try Tumbleweed of the album Pilgrimage, perhaps the best jazz album of the last 20 years. Or find a live recording of Some Skunk Funk. My hope is that you will respond the same way my old roommate, a huge rap fan did after hearing Brecker. His only word, after picking his jaw up of the ground, was “wow”.

Below, a solo that earned him one of his Grammy Awards.

My Top Ten Jazz Albums That You Probably Don’t Own

8 Apr

I recently found myself doing some cleaning of my album collection. More than cleaning, it is a chance for me to revisit some albums that have, through no fault of their own, been sitting on the shelf too long.

I came to realize that I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be a jazz radio disc jockey, as well as someone who can spend hours in jazz record stores. With the decline in jazz record sales, and the bulk of jazz album sales going to big name vocalists or timeless classic recordings like Kind of Blue, it hit me that just because I have exposure to some wonderful gems of the last thirty years, doesn’t mean that everybody has.

That being said, I decided that I wanted to share my favorite albums from the last thirty or so years that, for one reason or another, might not be sitting on your shelf. And, as always, I encourage you offer your hidden gems.

1. Pilgrimage – Michael Brecker (2007)

pilgrimageEven without the sentimental value of this album (Brecker recorded it while battling MDS and Leukemia, and never did live to release it), it is the best jazz album over the last twenty years. The writing and improvisation from Brecker is stellar, and each member of the band play to their full potential. Winner of two Grammy awards.

Recommended tracks: Tumbleweed, Anagram

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 3

2. Trumpet Evolution – Arturo Sandoval (2003)

trumpet-evolutionMany critics called this the best trumpet album of the last twenty years. Sandoval’s ability to capture the sound and emotion of each trumpet player he honors (19 in all) is something I don’t believe any other musician has the ability or talent to do.

Recommended Tracks: I Can’t Get Started, Up Jumped Spring

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 6

3. Beyond The Missouri Sky – Charlie Haden/Pat Metheny (1996)

beyond-the-missouri-skyTo be honest, I am not a huge Pat Metheny fan. On this album however, you are hard pressed to find a track that isn’t increadibly beautiful. The two musicians are in perfect sync, and you could have this release playing in your CD player over and over for days and continually enjoy it. A Grammy award winner.

Recommended Tracks: Two For the Road, The Moon Song, Cinema Paradiso (Love Theme)

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 1

4. The Birthday Concert – Jaco Pastorious (1981)

the-birthday-concertJaco Pastorious decided to throw himself a 30th birthday party in the form of a concert, and what a party it was. Jaco shows why he is the best electric bass player ever, and his supporting cast (Bob Mintzer, Michael Brecker, Peter Erskine, Don Alias, and the Peter Graves Orchestra.

Recommended Tracks: Soul Intro/The Chicken, Invitation

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 7

5. Flow – Terence Blanchard (2005)

flowAfter going through an embochure change (which just sounds painful to brass players), Blanchard came back strong with this release. Working with the likes of Herbie Hancock and Aaron Parks, this album features wonderful arrangements and performances with alot of intensity.

Recommended Tracks: Over There

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 10

6. An Evening with Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea – Herbie Hancock/Chick Corea (1978)

an-evening-with-herbie-hancock-and-chick-coreaHerbie and Chick had both gone pretty electric during the late 70’s, so to have them come together and do a live acoustic set was somewhat of a shock. They play extremely well together, and this concert is a wonderful result of that.

Recommended Tracks: Liza

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 8

7. Contemporary Jazz – Branford Marsalis (2000)

contemporary-jazzBranford displays a wonderfully artistic side on the first album with this quartet, which as of today has spent ten years together. While many of the compositions are complex, no member of the band struggles with them. On the contrary, each band member shines as part of a quartet that would continue to make fantastic music together. A Grammy award winner.

Recommended Tracks: In The Crease

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 12

8. Democracy – Kenny Werner (2006)

democracyI know Kenny Werner is talented. But until this live recording, he had yet to truly move me. David Sanchez and Brian Blade are especially good on this album, and all of Werner’s compositions are especially good.

Recommended Tracks: One For Joni

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: N/A


9. Lucky To Be Me – Taylor Eigsti (2006)

lucky-to-be-meJust 21 at the time of the recording, Eigsti proved that he is the future of jazz piano (in addition to virtuoso Eldar). The performances show maturity, energy, and complexity. Even more impressive is 17 year old guitarist Julian Lage.

Recommended Tracks: Giant Steps, Woke Up This Morning, Love For Sale

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 15

10. Earfood – Roy Hargrove (2008)

earfoodIt is wonderful when a musician can continue to put out music that demonstrates that they have yet to peak. Roy Hargrove continues to get better and better with every album, and this no doubt is his best. While Earfood was snubbed when it came to Grammy nominations, it is widely agreed upon that it was easily the best jazz album released in 2008.

Recommended Tracks: I’m Not So Sure, Speak Low, Bring It On Home To Me

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 7

My Top Ten Jazz Albums That You Probably Don't Own

8 Apr

I recently found myself doing some cleaning of my album collection. More than cleaning, it is a chance for me to revisit some albums that have, through no fault of their own, been sitting on the shelf too long.

I came to realize that I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be a jazz radio disc jockey, as well as someone who can spend hours in jazz record stores. With the decline in jazz record sales, and the bulk of jazz album sales going to big name vocalists or timeless classic recordings like Kind of Blue, it hit me that just because I have exposure to some wonderful gems of the last thirty years, doesn’t mean that everybody has.

That being said, I decided that I wanted to share my favorite albums from the last thirty or so years that, for one reason or another, might not be sitting on your shelf. And, as always, I encourage you offer your hidden gems.

1. Pilgrimage – Michael Brecker (2007)

pilgrimageEven without the sentimental value of this album (Brecker recorded it while battling MDS and Leukemia, and never did live to release it), it is the best jazz album over the last twenty years. The writing and improvisation from Brecker is stellar, and each member of the band play to their full potential. Winner of two Grammy awards.

Recommended tracks: Tumbleweed, Anagram

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 3

2. Trumpet Evolution – Arturo Sandoval (2003)

trumpet-evolutionMany critics called this the best trumpet album of the last twenty years. Sandoval’s ability to capture the sound and emotion of each trumpet player he honors (19 in all) is something I don’t believe any other musician has the ability or talent to do.

Recommended Tracks: I Can’t Get Started, Up Jumped Spring

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 6

3. Beyond The Missouri Sky – Charlie Haden/Pat Metheny (1996)

beyond-the-missouri-skyTo be honest, I am not a huge Pat Metheny fan. On this album however, you are hard pressed to find a track that isn’t increadibly beautiful. The two musicians are in perfect sync, and you could have this release playing in your CD player over and over for days and continually enjoy it. A Grammy award winner.

Recommended Tracks: Two For the Road, The Moon Song, Cinema Paradiso (Love Theme)

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 1

4. The Birthday Concert – Jaco Pastorious (1981)

the-birthday-concertJaco Pastorious decided to throw himself a 30th birthday party in the form of a concert, and what a party it was. Jaco shows why he is the best electric bass player ever, and his supporting cast (Bob Mintzer, Michael Brecker, Peter Erskine, Don Alias, and the Peter Graves Orchestra.

Recommended Tracks: Soul Intro/The Chicken, Invitation

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 7

5. Flow – Terence Blanchard (2005)

flowAfter going through an embochure change (which just sounds painful to brass players), Blanchard came back strong with this release. Working with the likes of Herbie Hancock and Aaron Parks, this album features wonderful arrangements and performances with alot of intensity.

Recommended Tracks: Over There

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 10

6. An Evening with Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea – Herbie Hancock/Chick Corea (1978)

an-evening-with-herbie-hancock-and-chick-coreaHerbie and Chick had both gone pretty electric during the late 70’s, so to have them come together and do a live acoustic set was somewhat of a shock. They play extremely well together, and this concert is a wonderful result of that.

Recommended Tracks: Liza

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 8

7. Contemporary Jazz – Branford Marsalis (2000)

contemporary-jazzBranford displays a wonderfully artistic side on the first album with this quartet, which as of today has spent ten years together. While many of the compositions are complex, no member of the band struggles with them. On the contrary, each band member shines as part of a quartet that would continue to make fantastic music together. A Grammy award winner.

Recommended Tracks: In The Crease

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 12

8. Democracy – Kenny Werner (2006)

democracyI know Kenny Werner is talented. But until this live recording, he had yet to truly move me. David Sanchez and Brian Blade are especially good on this album, and all of Werner’s compositions are especially good.

Recommended Tracks: One For Joni

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: N/A


9. Lucky To Be Me – Taylor Eigsti (2006)

lucky-to-be-meJust 21 at the time of the recording, Eigsti proved that he is the future of jazz piano (in addition to virtuoso Eldar). The performances show maturity, energy, and complexity. Even more impressive is 17 year old guitarist Julian Lage.

Recommended Tracks: Giant Steps, Woke Up This Morning, Love For Sale

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 15

10. Earfood – Roy Hargrove (2008)

earfoodIt is wonderful when a musician can continue to put out music that demonstrates that they have yet to peak. Roy Hargrove continues to get better and better with every album, and this no doubt is his best. While Earfood was snubbed when it came to Grammy nominations, it is widely agreed upon that it was easily the best jazz album released in 2008.

Recommended Tracks: I’m Not So Sure, Speak Low, Bring It On Home To Me

Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 7

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