I walked down the aisle past the piano keyboards, past cymbals on display looking like shiny branches on short trees, heading toward the loudest drum section in the back. Music equipment was everywhere on display – calling for
a test drive. The chairs were set up facing the stage. A jazz clinic was about to take place, the special guest performing at a local venue.
I arrived with little background information, yet was immediately defensive at what I observed. A man appeared to have cornered the guest asking for a LOT
of autographs and kept referring to his phone. Immediately I suspected these autographs were headed for ebay and this man was actively listing each item.
I applaud myself for how wrong I was.
The actual story is so much better.
The local music store had invited our high school jazz ensemble to participate in a clinic with Randy Brecker. Before you immediately judge me on my “I’ve read the album covers and know all the musicians involved for the past 50 years knowledge”, I’ll share with you that I cut my teeth in the 80’s dancing all night to every song I could sing & dance to. Certainly the birthplace of karaoke.
The jazz band took the stage and performed their first piece. Randy Brecker
rose from his seat, ascended the few stairs, greeting the musicians on stage. Humbling even the band director, the clinic began with Randy taking the microphone – ‘I can’t critique this…can I play with you guys?’ I think only a handful of the students could grasp that they were about to play with a
A little background: Randy Brecker is a trumpeter, composer & one of the founding members of Blood Sweat & Tears (1968 album), a Grammy Award winner, has toured behind the Iron Curtain in 1989. A studio musician, sometimes never actually playing with the artists but with ‘credits’ on albums by: Steely Dan, Ringo Starr, Aero Smith, BB King, Chaka Kahn, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross (see?, I sort of ‘knew’ Randy Brecker…), Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Frank Zappa, George Benson, Paul Simon, The Average White Band, Lou Reed, The Brecker Brothers…to name a few.
According to allmusic.com Randy Brecker has 2,208 credits on albums.
Next, a 17 year old trumpeter from the jazz band came forward to solo – he exchanged some effortless musician-to-musician strategy with Randy. The music they played-back & forth jazz trumpets with support from the band was just incredible. This young trumpet player got a ‘thumbs up’ from Randy Brecker.
That moment will probably always live with that young man as it began to sink in that he just jammed with a legend. Unsure if he even heard what Randy said into the microphone to the crowd…”keep your eyes on this kid” kind of thing.
A memorable experience for this group of musicians to share the stage with living history.
The guy with the autographs?
Sometimes I just can’t walk away. I started a conversation with the man with the autographs & a few hundred record albums. Prior to the clinic, Randy sat, patiently signing album cover after album cover with this man. The best part – they were not going on ebay. This album collection is his hobby. He has several thousand albums in his basement with over 20,000 signatures – his wife draws the line that they must remain there. I asked how willing the musicians are to sign autographs. He told me one person met him for coffee the morning following a concert and signed a few hundred while they talked.
After all the albums were autographed, Randy Brecker took a small breath, handed the marker back, reflected saying, “Wow, that was my whole life
in 15 minutes”.
I doubt he’ll get credit on an album for his appearance on a small stage in a music store on a winter afternoon, but the almost 70 year old Randy Brecker made a difference that day.