Episodes in Virtuosity: Michael Brecker

The word virtuoso is defined as, "a musician who is a consummate master of technique and artistry." or "… an individual who possesses outstanding technical ability at singing or playing a musical instrument."

When I decided to that I was going to be a serious (classical) musician, I regarded this word with esteem and respect. I saw the aspiration for virtuosity as a means of achieving self-actualization, and decided to dedicate my life towards this realization. However, like so many things, after six years of conservatory training the shine wore off this word and I fear that I have lost my reverence for the beautiful. After all, art is the habit of the artist. Nevertheless, it is my intent to use this platform to (re)discover, admire, and share music/musicians of the highest caliber, in any and all genres, strictly for the purpose of listening to Music worth listening to.

Today's installment is a performance of Naima from jazz saxophonist Michael Brecker.

Michael Brecker: Naima

2001 would have been the 75th birthday for both Miles Davis and John Coltrane. With this in mind, Herbie Hancock (piano) Michael Brecker (tenor sax) Roy Hargrove (trumpet) Brain Blade (drums) and John Patitucci (bass) took off on tour to serve homage to these giants of Jazz. On October 25, 2001 a live performance from this tour was recorded in Toronto, it was entitled Directions in Music: Live at Massey Hall.

Michael Brecker's solo performance during this concert is incredible and notable for many reasons. His ability to effortlessly execute florid running lines that tail off meandering melodic phrases is breathtaking. Furthermore, the tenor sax is an instrument with a wide range and Brecker takes advantage of all areas of his harmonic pallet with a singing vibrato and silky tone as well as an awareness and control which allows him to break certain notes for dramatic effect. In other words, he has a massive range of pitches to paint with, and the control to color them however he wants. In addition, Brecker is a relentless thinker and improviser throughout this performance. His running arpeggios at 4:45 demand your attention and displays his prowess both physically and mentally. 
This is one of those recordings where I can remember where I was when I first heard it. I remember my amazement at this performance because it screams with authority. This is an example of complete and utter instrumental dominance. Performances like this are a rare thing – they are to be treasured, catalogued, and shared. The album is available for purchase via itunes here. Listen once, listen again, and listen with your friends. Enjoy.