Brecker is an American trumpeter, flugelhornist and composer who has played
with Blood, Sweat & Tears, Stevie Wonder, George Benson, Bob James, Jaco
Pastorius, Todd Rundgren, Spyro Gyra, Aerosmith, Dire Straits, Steely Dan and many
He recorded his first solo album (Score) in 1968, which featured his brother Michael on tenor saxophone. The brothers then teamed up with Billy Cobham and John Abercrombie to form the fusion group Dreams.
In 1975, Randy and Michael formed the Brecker Brothers band – releasing six albums including Heavy Metal Be-Bop, featuring Terry Bozzio on drums. (Michael sadly passed away in 2007, but Randy later put together a Brecker Brothers Band Reunion tour that included Bozzio on some dates, together with Albert Wing: they released the Heavy Metal Be-Bop Band Tour ’14 In Japan 2-CD set in 2016.)
On the day I posted my chat with string bassist Jay Anderson, I received an email from Bill Milkowski asking if I would be interested in an interesting anecdote with Randy regarding his participation in Zappa’s 1976 Palladium shows – he told me, “I did an interview with Randy for Jazziz magazine, but didn’t end up using any of the Zappa stuff. I’m not using it anywhere else.” Of course, I said yes!
For those of you who might not know, Bill is a jazz critic and journalist who wrote the excellent biography, JACO: The Extraordinary And Tragic Life Of Jaco Pastorius, The World’s Greatest Bass Player (1995). He also interviewed Frank three times in the early eighties (for Good Times, Down Beat and Modern Recording & Music), and is currently working on a book about Michael Brecker. He is also a friend of Jay Anderson’s!
Without further ado, here is the previously unpublished part of Bill’s interview with Randy.
The Zappa In New York – 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, which came out in March of 2019, is a 5-CD set that contains tons of extra tracks that feature you and Mike playing electronic effects, like epic versions of Black Napkins and The Purple Lagoon. What do you remember about that gig at The Palladium back in 1976?
I remember most about that gig is just being terrified at being able to play
the parts, because a lot of this stuff was really, really difficult. That’s why
Alan Rubin,[i] the regular
trumpeter in the Saturday Night Live horn section at the time, bailed after he
saw the music. So I got hired to do that Palladium gig.[ii] Frank was really
like a classical conductor in a hippie uniform, which was part of his comedy
routine. And he was a genius at that. But the band for that SNL gig was
first-rate – Patrick O’Hearn on bass, Ronnie Cuber on bari sax, Lou Marini[iii] on sax,
David Samuels[iv] on vibes,
Terry Bozzio on drums – and everybody played great. That’s where we met Bozzio.
And what came out of that Palladium gig was Heavy
Metal Be-Bop because Frank had some months off and Terry was free, so we
hired him to do a Brecker Brothers tour that culminated with that live
recording from My Father’s Place on Long Island.
But I enjoyed getting to meet Zappa that week at The Palladium. He seemed to be having a good time and he had his family with him – two little kids, Moon and Dweezil. I didn’t get to know him very well. In fact, I ran into him a month later in a lobby of a hotel somewhere and he didn’t remember who I was.
That’s the music life!
Interview conducted on Thursday 12th September 2019.
[i] Rubin (1943-2011) was a member of the Saturday Night Live and Blues Brothers bands. He portrayed “Mr. Fabulous” in the Blues Brothers films, a nickname given to him by John Belushi.
[ii] Zappa appeared as a musical guest on the December 11, 1976 Saturday Night Live show; two weeks later he played The Palladium from December 26-29.
[iii] Marini was also in The Blues Brothers films, as “Blue Lou” – a name given to him by Dan Aykroyd.
[iv] Samuels would also go on to play with Spyro Gyra, alongside Brecker. He sadly passed away just after the Zappa In New York box set was released, on April 22, 2019.