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Brecker Brothers keep legend alive with reunion

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Merri Cyr
Randy Brecker comes to Pittsburgh’s North Side with the Brecker Brothers Band Reunion on April 12, 2013.

Randy Brecker says he is happy to be keeping one of his most famous musical creations “in the family.”

A new version of the Brecker Brothers Band will perform April 12 at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side.

His wife, Ada Ravotti, will play saxophone in place of Brecker's brother, Michael, who died of leukemia at 57 in 2007.

“There was only one Michael Brecker,” the trumpeter says of his virtuosic brother, who fought the disease for nearly three years. “The same can be said for Ada, too. She has her own sound and is bringing it to the band.”

The Brecker Brothers Band was formed in 1975 in the days when Blood Sweat & Tears and Chicago were bringing jazz-like horn passages to pop music. Randy Brecker, who was a member of Blood Sweat & Tears on its first album, and Michael took matters a little differently.

They brought rock-pop rhythms to a jazz band in the manner of Miles Davis' “Bitches Brew” — but with a little more funk.

Brecker, 67, says the reunion band came into fruition about 1 12 years ago, when he was putting together a gig at the Blue Note in New York City. Many of the suggested sidemen had Brecker Brothers ties, so they put it together as the first reunion band.

This group has slightly different personnel, but is the band that will go next to the Berks Jazz Festival across the state and then to Europe. It is the first time this group has performed in public, he says.

It consists of Brecker and Ravotti, guitarist Mitch Stein, bassist Neil Jason, drummer Rodney Holmes and keyboardist-singer Oli Rockberger.

Brecker has had a long and varied career. Early on, before Blood Sweat & Tears and the Brecker Brothers, he did a great deal of studio work in which he would perform a huge variety of music.

Of course, he also was playing jazz in the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and with leaders such as Horace Silver and Art Blakey.

That work has kept him open to a great variety of music and made it possible to bounce from one form to another quickly. In the past few years, for instance, he has been sounding more like a bebop and hard-bop player, performing the kind of material he did at the University of Pittsburgh Jazz Seminar and Concert this past November.

But he says he always is pleased to go back to Brecker Brothers material.

“I really like going back there, because the thing was my idea,” he says.

Back in the '70s, he says, he and his brother started fooling around with funk-rooted jazz. A club owner said he would book them, but wanted the band to be called the Brecker Brothers, the trumpeter recounts. They did it, got the job and a band was born.

At this weekend's shows, the band will play classics such as “Skunk Funk,” as well as some lesser-known pieces from the past and new material.

Playing mainstream jazz or funk-based material sounds different, he says, but they both use the same mindset.

“They all come out of the same river,” he says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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