Randy Brecker photo courtesy of the artist
Earshot Jazz is proud to share brief excerpts from the forthcoming book, After Jackson Street: Seattle Jazz in the Modern Era (History Press of Charleston, S.C.), by Seattle’s preeminent jazz writer, Paul de Barros. Picking up where Jackson Street After Hours (Sasquatch Books, 1993) left off, the new book will feature fascinating interviews with the familiar artists and under-sung heroes who shape this vibrant jazz scene.
BY PAUL DE BARROS
Back when I was researching Jackson Street After Hours, several sources said trumpeter Randy Brecker once spent time in Seattle. Recently, I interviewed Brecker and he confirmed that he not only spent the summer of 1965 here but that “it was a profound influence in my life.” Who knew that our fair city had been so important to this veteran of the Horace Silver Quintet, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and The Eleventh House (with Larry Coryell), not to mention The Brecker Brothers (with his late brother Michael)?
Here’s some of the story, in Brecker’s words, edited for this article:
My original reason for going out there was that my first real girlfriend, at Indiana University, couldn’t come back to school and I wanted to go out to see her. So, my parents agreed to let me go if I took a couple of courses at the University of Washington.
The first place I checked out was The Embers (on Alki Point). The Embers was just a really hip place. Larry Coryell (also a UW student) had a steady gig there, which is where we met. He was a young kid with a crew cut and he played whatever he felt like, any style. I’d never met a musician like that, who was so adept at jazz and knew all the bebop tunes and then could really funk it up. I played with Larry the rest of my life until he sadly passed away (in 2017). It was a great rhythm section: Sarge West or Mike Mandel (on keyboards) and Dean Hodges on drums. Dean was a great drummer. That was the first time I heard rock and roll beats in person, you know, if you can believe it. I was strictly a bebopper, but they did a little of everything. There was just no labels on the music.
There was a club called the Queequeg (in the University District) where I played with a lot of local guys and I played with a dance band (led by) Jackie Souders. In that band was a guy named Roy Cummings, who also was a fine trumpet player. I stayed with friends with him and did some other clinic stuff for him (at UW), years later.
The Penthouse (on First and Cherry) was thriving. One week, the Horace Silver Quintet (played). That was my first meeting with Woody Shaw, who was my age. On weekends, local guys would play right before the band went on. So, Horace and Woody heard me play. I became friendly with Woody and (later) we played together a lot in New York. In fact, he recommended me for the gig with Horace. The next week at the Penthouse it was Art Blakey, with Lee Morgan. Lee heard me play and asked me to sit in. Like I said, a life-changing two months.
I met all the guys. Jay Thomas was 15 years old and played great. I didn’t know he played saxophone, originally. Carlos Ward and I played together quite a bit. Joe Brazil was leading the jam sessions (at the Penthouse). The Seattle thing was just music all day. It was small enough that everybody knew everybody and the word kinda got around. There were no boundaries, no racial thing. Everybody loved everybody. It was amazing. I just have the fondest memories of that place. I wrote a tune called “Seattle.” (Hear it on Hangin’ in the City; ESC Records, 2001.)