Music Education Monday: A master class with Michael Brecker, and more


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Saxophonist Michael Brecker was a prolific and influential jazz, rock, pop, and session player for the better part of four decades, starting at the turn of the 1970s and continuing until his untimely death from complications of leukemia in 2007, when he was just 57 years old.

Brecker's distinctive sound and approach, drawing on the innovations of John Coltrane but also incorporating other influences, personal interpretation, and technical refinements, inspired many young musicians during his lifetime, and he continues to be listened to and studied today.

In 1984, Brecker presented a master class for students at the University of North Texas, and fortunately, someone had both the good sense then to videotape the class, and the generosity now to upload it to YouTube. You can see that master class in the first embedded video at the end of the post.

While you're at it, it's also worth checking out saxophonist Bob Reynolds' annotation of Brecker's workshop. (It's the same video, just broken into multiple parts due to YouTube's old restrictions on the length of clips.)

Twelve years later, Brecker sat down with Bret “Jazz Video Guy" Primack for an interview about his 1996 album Tales From The Hudson that produced a couple more brief segments of particular interest to aspiring musicians. You can see those two clips, in which Brecker talks about his practice routine and how to develop a personal sound, below the master class video.

Brecker also has served as the subject of a number of academic papers and studies, and some of these can be read for free online. And so, while yr. humble StLJN editor, not being a professor of music, admittedly isn't fully qualified to judge, those interested in some really in-depth discussion may want to read the PDF files of “Brecker and Patterns: An Analysis of Michael Brecker's Melodic and Instrumental Devices," a master's thesis from 1999 by Ari Poutiainen of Sibelius Academy in Finland; and “Brecker's Blues: Transcription and Theoretical Analysis of Six Selected Improvised Blues Solos by Jazz Saxophonist Michael Brecker," written in 2003 by David Rawlings Freedy as part of his work toward a doctor of musical arts at The Ohio State University.

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved.

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