Billy Cobham comes to the west coast with his Crosswinds Project in October, dates and venues to be posted shortly. Bill is widely acknowledged as the greatest living jazz fusion drummer and he is joined on the tour by the man acclaimed as the greatest living jazz fusion trumpeter, Randy Brecker. They will be playing Jazz Alley Seattle and the Blue Note Napa among other venues as part of a nationwide tour that kicks off at the Blue Note in New York. I interviewed Randy for Six Days at Ronnie Scott’s: Billy Cobham on Jazz Fusion and the Act of Creation. Here’s a favorite excerpt.
GRUBER: You had been around for some years before that release, playing with the likes of Larry Coryell. Did you believe that there were artists and forms of experimentation prior that deserved equal recognition?
BRECKER: It’s funny you asked that. We were a little bit ahead of that. I’ll tell you a funny story. It goes to show you where maybe Miles was influenced himself. Dreams became kind of the house band at the Village Gate, a large club on Bleeker Street, now closed for many years. That was one of the hippest if not the hippest place to play in New York. Miles would play there, in fact I saw him in a double bill with Charles Lloyd with his great band with Jack DeJohnette and Keith Jarrett. That was an amazing double bill. Miles would come down and never come and talk to us, but you always knew when he was there, everyone saying, “Miles is here,” which spread around the audience like wildfire. You could see him sitting in the back. In the meantime, I had electrified my trumpet. We had John Abercrombie in the band who always played with a wah-wah pedal. One day he couldn’t make rehearsal and his pedal was just sitting there and we had these devices called ‘condors’ which made bubbly sounds on the horn and I plugged the wah-wah into my trumpet and it sounded just great. I got a wah-wah myself and started using it, using guitar effects and Miles would always come down. Eventually he hired Billy for Bitches Brew. When I joined Billy’s band, there was a guy named Jim Rose, who was Miles’ road manager, would come by the gig and say I was trying to sound like Miles with the wah-wah, and I explained to him the way things had developed. It became a running joke between me and Jim. He liked Billy so he would come to hear us a lot.
Years later when we were all at (Brecker brothers-owned jazz club) Seventh Avenue South, I found myself standing next to Miles. The club was really crowded. I never really met him so I stuck out my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Randy Brecker, I’m a big fan, I own the club and it’s great to meet you,” and his response was…nothing. He had his dark glasses on so it was just silence, he just kind of looked through me. I slunked away, went downstairs to the bar and started having a couple of martinis. About an hour later, I hear a little wisp of air in my left ear, “I love my wah-wah, you love your wah-wah.” And he split. It was the only thing he said to me (laughter). He was still a big influence, especially when it started, it was a little later that Bitches Brewgot recorded but then his influence was undeniable when he put together that great electric band. I know it influenced Billy. It influenced all of us.