It may be hard to imagine today, but there never really was supposed to be a Brecker Brothers band, nor was it supposed be a pop outfit. Well, maybe it wasn't truly pop, but trumpeter Randy and late tenor saxophonist Michael did join forces to become stars of jazz's fusion movement in the 1970s.
You'll get to recall some of those days and tunes on Friday night at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild's Jazz Hall, which will host the Brecker Brothers Reunion Band for two shows.
They came by that fusion honestly.
The Breckers grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Cheltenham, with Randy Brecker moving to New York in 1966 after studying at Indiana University. While working with Horace Silver and Art Blakey, "I was in the thick of the rock stuff, too," he says, as an early member of Blood, Sweat and Tears and also a fill-in for Janis Joplin's band.
With Michael following him to the Big Apple, eventually Randy began rehearsing a band that included his brother, alto saxophonist David Sanborn, keyboardist Don Grolnick, guitarist Steve Khan, bassist Will Lee and drummer Chris Parker to record a demo for what Randy hoped to be a solo album.
But Steve Becker, an executive producer for Arista Records, got wind of the project and developed another idea -- making Michael a co-headliner and calling it the Brecker Brothers because, in his view, a brother act would be easier to promote. Despite misgivings, Randy gave the OK.
"It went on to be more successful than I ever thought," Randy says.
For that first album the band had recorded nine tunes. However, Randy notes that label president Clive Davis "put a gun to my head" and wanted a single, so "we jammed and came up with 'Sneaking Up Behind You.' " Consider Mr. Davis' demands met; that tune went Top 5 on the R&B chart.
In addition to helping put fusion on the map, the Brecker Brothers over time called other now-well-known musicians such as Luther Vandross, Hiram Bullock, Marcus Miller and Steve Jordan to work with them. They also did a lot of studio work with Stevie Wonder, Spyro Gyra, Bob James and countless others.
After 1980's "Detente," the last of six albums the brothers recorded for Arista -- "the contract ran out" -- they decided to go their separate ways, Randy going with Jaco Pastorius, and Michael to the ground floor of another fusion band, Steps Ahead, which basically formed at the club they founded, Seventh Avenue South, and carved out a successful career often with more traditional jazz.
"The next thing I know, 10 years have gone by," so the brothers reunited for two more early-1990s albums, "Return of the Brecker Brothers" and "Out of the Loop," which turned out to be their last. This doesn't count Randy Brecker's 2003 release, "34 N Lex," on which his brother participated and which won a Grammy for best contemporary jazz album.
Randy decided about a year and a half ago to start a new musical project. However, after realizing that everyone involved had played at some point with the Brecker Brothers band, he decided to call it a tribute -- officially, it's Randy Brecker and the Brecker Brothers Band Reunion. It also pays respects to members who have died: Michael, of leukemia in 2006; Bullock, in 2008; Vandross in 2005; and Grolnick in 1996.
This edition includes bassist Neil Jason, drummer Rodney Holmes, guitarist Mitch Stein, singer-keyboardist Oli Rockberger -- "It's like having Herbie Hancock and Sting in the band" -- and Randy's wife of 10 years, Italian tenor saxophonist Ada Ravotti succeeding Michael because Randy "wanted to keep it in the family."
And Ms. Ravotti "doesn't sound anything like Mike -- she really has a unique voice," Randy Brecker says. "She has three or four CDs out."
The entire Brecker Brothers catalog from Arista, which was out of print for a while, is now available as a box set from Sony Legacy. Included are the two "Blue Montreux" albums from the early 1980s on which they participated.
Rick Nowlin: email@example.com or 412-263-3871.