He is a trumpeter and flugel horn player born in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, to a family where his father played the piano and his brother, Michael, was also an acclaimed musician.
From the time he was very young his interest in music was encouraged and he spent many of his summers at stage-band camps. By the time he was a teenager he was performing in local bars. He concentrated on playing funk and R&B but after listening to the records in his dad’s collection he became acquainted with artists such as Sonny Rollins and Horace Silver among many others.
In 1963 he entered Indiana University where he studied trumpet with Bill Adam and carried on performing with a whole range of bands as well as the IU Big Band who he toured Asia and the Middle East with in 1966. While he was there one of the students was Booker T and he managed to get the opportunity to play with Booker T & The MGs.
He left the university in 1966 and remained in Europe after the band’s tour. While there he became a prizewinner in Vienna when he competed in the International Jazz Competition. He then return to the United States and went to New York City where he got jobs playing with a few big bands and orchestras and recorded two albums with the Duke Pearson Big Band. He then went on to join the group Blood, Sweat & Tears and during his year with them in 1967/1968 he appeared on their debut “Child Is Father To Man”
Later in 1968 he moved groups and became a member of the Horace Silver Quintet. This was his first chance to perform as a leader, with his brother on saxophone, on the recording Score. He changed groups again to become part of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and then moving on again he got together with his brother and a few more musicians to form Dreams. They released the albums Dreams and Imagine My Surprise before going their own separate ways in 1971.
1972 saw him returning to the Horace Silver Quintet along with his brother. He recorded the quintet’s In Pursuit of the 27th Man and then joined Larry Coryell’s group and recorded Larry Coryell and the 11th House. He and Michael had also started to get their names known for their studio work and the brothers became two of the most sought after session musicians for that period.
When 1973 came around he went on tour with Stevie Wonder before he and his brother joined Yoko Ono and The Plastic Ono Super Band for appearances in Japan. The next year they both joined up with the group Spectrum and after making several recordings with them they decided that 1975 was the time to become frontmen and The Brecker Brothers band was born. The band were hugely popular and very highly acclaimed and over their six album recording period, which ended in 1981, they were award seven Grammy Award nominations.
Towards the end of the ‘70s he and his brother became the owners of the jazz club Seventh Avenue South and they featured on Zappa in NY when they performed with Frank Zappa in New York City in 1978. Randy later joined Charlie Mingus to record his final album Me, Myself and Eye.
In 1982 The Brecker Brothers disbanded and he went on tour with Jaco Pastorius where a Japanese concert was recorded and became the live album Word of Mouth. Four years later, in 1986, when Randy was the arranger, composer and producer for his debut solo acoustic album In the Idiom. Two years later he released his Live at Sweet Basil and then the next year or so was spent touring the United States and Europe. In 1989 he and his Quintet went on tour to Eastern Europe and that same year he performed with Eric Clapton at London’s Albert Hall.
When the 1990s came in Randy found himself as busy as ever when he went toured with Mingus Dynasty/Epitaph and recorded his album Toe to Toe. Two years later in 1992 he and Michael got back together and The Brecker Brothers released their The Return of the Brecker Brothers which led to a world tour and three Grammy Award nominations. Another two years later, in 1994, they put out their Out of the Loop which won them a further two Grammy Award nominations and once again they went on tour and when they performed concerts in Beijing and Shanghai they were heralded as the “first international contemporary jazz group to perform in the People’s Republic of China”.
In 1995 Randy toured Japan with Stanley Turrentine and performed in Poland as one of the first western jazz musicians since its democracy. The following year he got together an international band of artists and recorded his Into the Sun. It resulted in his first Grammy Award in 1998, which he heard about when he was performing at Ronnie Scott’s club in London. A few months later he performed in Israel and made appearances with the Art of Blakey Band.
The new millennium rolled in and he released his “Hangin’ in the City” which became a hit in Germany when it went to No. 4 and he toured America with the Newport Jazz Millennium Celebration tour. He later toured the country supporting the Jazz Times Superband album. In 2003 he released his 34th n’ Lex and won his third Grammy Award. The promotional tour of the album followed and later in 2003 he toured Europe with the Randy Brecker/Bill Evan Soulbop Band and The Brecker Brothers reunited to appear at the Mount Fuji Jazz Festival in Japan.
In 2004 he performed for the last time with his brother before he became ill with leukaemia at the Leverkusen Jazz Festival. He later toured with many other artists and several of his own bands and in 2007 achieved a fourth Grammy Award for his Randy Brecker Live with the WDR Big Band which was recorded at the last festival with his brother who sadly died in January 2007. That same year Soulbop released a double live album and they toured Asia and Europe and gave a performance at the Tokyo Jazz Festival.
In 2008 he released his Randy in Brasil which gained him his fifth Grammy Award. That same year he was a guest musician with several groups, made extensive tours of Europe and Japan with the Mike Stern Quartet and the album Tribute to the Brecker Brothers was recorded at the Hamamatsu Jazz Festival and released in Japan. In 2009 his Jazz Suite Tykocin was released where he performs as a soloist with members of the Bialystok Philharmonic from Poland.
Throughout his long and varied career he has performed with countless artists that include Air, Alessi Brothers, Patti Austin, Average White Band, Joe Beck, Luiz Bonfa, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Felix Cavaliere, Change, Count Basie Orchestra, Kiki Dee, Eumir Deodato, Dire Straits, The Fabulous Rhinestones, Donald Fagen, Fania All-Stars, Aretha Franklin, Funkadelic, Eric Gale, The J. Geils Band, Ian Gillan, Dizzy Gillespie, Dan Hartman, Woody Herman, Rupert Holmes, Lena Horne, Dr. John, Chaka Khan, Ben E. King, Kleeer, Ralph MacDonald, Mike Mainieri, Herbie Mann, The Manhattan Transfer, Manu Dibango, Martha & The Muffins, Dave Matthews, The McCoys, Meco, Melanie, Bette Midler, Liza Minnelli, Moby Grape, Idris Muhammad, Aaron Neville, Laura Nyro, Claus Ogerman, Parliament, Teddy Pendergrass, Esther Phillips, Lou Reed, David Sanborn, Tom Scott, Don Sebseky, Ben Sidran, Janis Siegel, John Simon, Slave, O.C. Smith, Richard Tee, Third World, Joe Thomas, John Tropea, Tina Turner, Luther Vandross, Wild Cherry, Johnny Winter and many more.
His credits on albums as a performer, composer and/or producer are many and outside of his solo albums just a very few that he features on include Get Your Wings by Aerosmith, Chapter Three: Viva Emiliano Zapata by Gato Barbieri, Good King Bad by George Benson, Agents of Fortune by Blue Oyster Cult, Heavy Metal BeBop by The Brecker Brothers, Get On the Good Foot by James Brown, Feel Me by Cameo, Take It Off by Chic, August by Eric Clapton, Civilized Man by Joe Cocker, Judith by Judy Collins, Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits, Roberta by Roberta Flack, Now Voyager by Barry Gibb, Dancin’ on the Couch by Go West, Anything Goes by Stephane Grappelli & Phil Woods, Jazz Not Jazz by Hue & Cry, Blue Moves by Elton John, King of Blues: 1989 by B.B. King, Chicago Theme by Hubert Laws, Onobox by Yoko Ono, Double Fun by Robert Palmer, If You Could Love Me by Mica Paris, Why Do Fools Fall in Love by Diana Ross, Something/Anything by Todd Rundgren, Boys in the Trees by Carly Simon, Greatest Hits, Etc by Paul Simon, L.A. Is My Lady by Frank Sinatra, Never Letting Go by Phoebe Snow, Chrome Collection by The Spinners, Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, Morning Dance by Spyro Gyra, Ringo’s Rotogravure by Ringo Starr, Chance by Candi Staton, Gaucho by Steely Dan, Baby Plays Around by Curtis Stigers, One Man Dog by James Taylor, Soul Box by Grover Washington Jr., Back in the High Life by Steve Winwood and the soundtracks of A Chorus Line, Fame, The Warriors and The Wiz.
He continues his busy schedule into the 2010s and still works hard as a performer, composer, clinician and member of the GRP All-Star Big Band.
Todd Rundgren recordings
Cold Morning Light (Todd Rundgren)
Hello It’s Me (Todd Rundgren)
Spyro Gyra Recordings
Morning Dance (Jay Beckenstein)
Here he is in a performance with the saxophonist Bob Berg….