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Michael Brecker Plays Ballads - 2001-07-04

Award-winning jazz saxophonist Michael Brecker gets a little help from some close friends on his latest album Nearness of You - The Ballad Book. Playing tenor sax alongside guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Jack DeJohnette, Brecker performs some of the most intimate music of his career.

Michael Brecker has performed with the best in jazz, rock and R&B, but he's probably most at home with this quartet of jazz veterans and a special guest pop star.

If having one of the best backup bands in jazz wasn't enough, Michael Brecker enlisted James Taylor to sing on two of the album's 11 tracks. Taylor puts a jazz spin on his own 1972 hit "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," as well as the album's title song. It's not the first time Michael Brecker and James Taylor have worked together.

In fact, during Brecker's years as a session player, he appeared on more than 1,800 recordings, many with his older brother, trumpeter Randy Brecker. Michael and Randy Brecker began playing jazz in their native Philadelphia.

They both attended the University of Indiana, and later formed the Brecker Brothers band in New York City. When session work called, the brothers went their separate ways.

Michael Brecker's partnership with Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden began on his 1987 self-titled solo album. It's like they never stopped playing together when you hear them on this cut 15 years later.

From Michael Brecker's Nearness Of You - The Ballad Book, he performs "Seven Days," one of two songs written and arranged by guitarist Pat Metheny. In addition to originals by Brecker and pianist Herbie Hancock, the album features the Irving Berlin classic "Always"

Last weekend, Michael Brecker performed five shows at the Montreal Jazz Festival. His sets included the music of his former groups Steps Ahead and the Brecker Brothers.

This week, he'll headline a tribute concert to the late VOA jazz host Willis Conover in Moscow, Russia.