Note:This scholarly essay is part of a research project submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in the School of Music. The project also involved the preparation and performance of two lecture recitals related to the essay topic.

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Title:The significant contributions of the Brecker Brothers bands, 1975-1996
Author(s):Madsen, Christopher Aaron
Advisor(s):McNeill, Charles
Contributor(s):McNeill, Charles; Lund, Erik; Spencer, Joel
Department / Program:School of Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:A.Mus.D. (doctoral)
Abstract:The Brecker Brothers band was a jazz/funk/rock fusion ensemble which began in 1975 in New York City. Originally from Philadelphia, brothers Randy (trumpet, 1945-) and Michael (1949–2007) began their careers in the 1960s and soon became top call session musicians for big-name pop and rock acts in the early 1970s. During this time, Randy began to assemble ideas for a fusion ensemble which would realize his compositional ideas combining aspects of his jazz training alongside his experience performing with more commercial artists. From this, the Brecker Brothers band was born. I see this research as the first step toward wider recognition of the Brecker Brothers band. I anticipate that others will follow with further examination of the group so that its legacy is cemented in the larger jazz fusion conversation. This is a conversation which frequently cites Tony Williams’ Lifetime, the Miles Davis groups of the late 1960s/early 70s, Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Chick Corea’s Return to Forever as the significant contributors to 1970s jazz fusion. My contention is that the Brecker Brothers should also occupy a place here; indeed, their willingness to incorporate much more commercial-friendly fare alongside more experimental music constituted a unique place within this framework. “Introduction” provides the context under which the band began, giving some history about the late 1960s jazz fusion scene and how the Brecker Brothers fit into it. “Comparative Analysis” traces the evolution of the band from many angles: I examine the most commonly performed repertoire and when certain important pieces were introduced to the band’s set lists. Like its fusion counterpart Weather Report, the Brecker Brothers band underwent frequent personnel shifts which caused its studio and live performances to have a freshness to them as members of the ensemble changed. Who these people were and how long they stayed with the band are topics I explore in this essay. The final section, “Influence of the Brecker Brothers Band," dives into the legacy of the ensemble and compares the Brecker Brothers with their contemporaries, particularly during the band’s first iteration. “Influence of the Brecker Brothers band” explains how the musicians were influenced by their peers as well as how they influenced others. I also explore the lasting impact of the band and pinpoint which artists may have been influenced by their performance and compositional techniques. A “Catalog” of all Brecker Brothers performances is included as an appendix.
Issue Date:2021
Publisher:School of Music, College of Fine + Applied Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Christopher Aaron Madsen
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-03-12

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