I first heard about this book from saxophonist Charles McNeal who wrote about it on May 29, 2023 on his Facebook page.
I was aware of the existence of the original notebooks which is part of the collection at the Michael Brecker Archive at William Patterson University. I know some people were hoping they would be commercially available in some form but I had no clue that work to release it was in place.
And boy was I excited when it was available.
The book itself is 145 pages filled with not just excerpts from his notebooks (organized chronologically) but also insights from legendary musicians who have worked with him & their accounts of how they remember Michael Brecker practicing the material.
In the words of publisher Chuck Sher:
First, please rest assured that we have included everything of musical value that we could from Michael’s original notebooks. This should be plenty to keep us busy for quite some time! As someone on Facebook wrote, “The shed’s about to hit the fan!”
Another thing to keep in mind is that the building blocks of Michael’s playing to be found in these pages will be useful to any improviser, regardless of his or her stage of development. You don’t have to be a genius to learn from a genius, so dig in and have fun!
I believe that even more important than absorbing Michael Brecker’s vocabulary is for each of us to absorb the dedication he had to finding his own voice, to mastering the elements of music and to work towards being the most complete musician he could be. We can emulate this ourselves by acknowledging the phrases that spontaneously arise when we practice and then working with specific ones that catch our ear, so that they become really ours.
As I read through the musical examples, there is so much to dig into. Almost every example could be like hours of practice especially if you took the concept behind the example and played it in all keys. It’s also helpful that Michael Brecker wrote the harmonic context (what chords or scales the line/sequence/idea belonged to).
As a guitarist, all the notated material is definitely applicable for guitar except for some of the saxophone-specific exercises in Appendix II. Otherwise, I can safely say as long as you can read in treble clef, there’s bound to be many things here that can potentially help your musical skills grow.
Appendix 1 also includes a list of lead sheets and transcribed solos contained in Michael Brecker’s practice notebooks – these are “not included in this book due to length and copyright issues” but it’s so good to know that these tunes were part of his practice and study.
All in all, I want to congratulate everyone who worked on this project for making this available. What a gem this is! Get it now is all I have to say honestly.
Pros: Great material, amazing insights into Michael Brecker’s creative process, invaluable!
TLDR: If you’re learning jazz or play jazz, you owe yourself to get this book. What a rare opportunity it is to see the inner workings of one of the most influential jazz musicians to ever play the saxophone. Get it & shed!
You can get both the PDF digital version & print versions here:
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