For jazz musicians coming of age in the 1970s fusion era, Philadelphia-born brothers Michael and Randy Brecker were an ideal to look up to. “The Brecker brothers were on every recording imaginable, from Frank Zappa to Steely Dan to Aretha Franklin and Horace Silver,” says keyboardist Dave Hartl. “I think I saw Michael Brecker more than any other professional musician during the years that he was active because he played with everybody who was great. I remember seeing him with Joni Mitchell and Herbie Hancock, and when he took off on his own later in his career, he made some of the best jazz records of that decade.”
Hartl is now revisiting the brothers’ repertoire with Breckerville, a quintet founded to perform the Breckers’ music from the 1970s and early 1980s, including their solo work, the music of the Brecker Brothers band, and the group Steps Ahead which featured Michael on saxophone.
The band consists of four musicians who are all veterans of the 1980s Atlantic City circuit: Hartl, who has become the band’s arranger; drummer Vic Stevens, who also records the band at his Giant Steps Recording studio in Sicklerville; bassist Andy Lalasis; and trumpeter Bob Ferguson. They’re joined by saxophonist Carl Cox, a former student of Hartl’s at the University of the Arts.
The group came together at the behest of saxophonist Michael Pedicin Jr., who invited Ferguson to assemble a band for the annual summer concert series at the Ocean City Library. “I was just about to play with Bowzer from Sha Na Na at the Luzerne County Fair with Vic and Andy when Bob called and asked us if we wanted to do this,” Hartl recalls. “So we rehearsed for three hours and played the show, and it just smoked.”
Since Michael Brecker passed away in 2007 and Randy plays in a wide variety of different contexts, Hartl says that Breckerville is a rare opportunity for younger fans to hear the brothers’ music live. “I remember going up to Sweet Basil in New York and just being pasted to the wall, coming home and being high for two weeks just thinking about the music that I’d seen. That’s what we’re trying to recreate. I feel like jazz has taken a very safe route and we’re trying to reinvigorate it. We get up and go for the jugular from the first beat on. Smooth jazz is not what we’re doing.”
July 17, 8 p.m.
Chris’ Jazz Cafe
1421 Sansom St.