Monday, September 7, 2020

Michael Brecker and the flat tire

I can't remember if I've told this story on here or not. If I have, not recently.
When I was teaching at Humber College, Michael Brecker was artist in residence. The head of the percussion department, Roger Flock, I think considered himself more of a percussionist than a drum set player, so performances with these guests would be famed out to one of the drum set specialists on the part time faculty. Mark Kelso was on the pat time faculty at this time, and with Mr. Brecker playing a handful of concerts during his residency, Mark was certainly keen to perform with him, as was I. The residencies usually featured the guest artist playing with various configurations of faculty and students, in a variety of musical settings. The faculty performances were to be Brecker with an acoustic group, an electric/fusion band, as well as some other things that escape me. ( I vaguely remember doing some sort of 2 tenor thing with Pat LaBarbera .) What was sort of cool was that because Mark was going to be away most of that week he wanted to play the first concert , which was the "straight ahead acoustic Jazz' one. So, I was to play the "Fusion" concert the next day. I relished the idea of both Mark and I playing "against type", and hopefully, yet slightly nervously looked forward to playing with Michael Brecker the next day. The next morning I got up early to make the hour long journey to Humber for the noon hour concert. I walked into the garage and realized I had a flat tire. There was a possibility of getting the motor club to fix it but, by the time they got to my place, time would be a little tight. So, I decided to change the tire myself. This was a while ago so, 1) the spare tire was an actual regulation tire so driving to Toronto and back on it wouldn't be a problem and 2) I used the owner's manual as my guide as this was pre-Google and Youtube. I followed the instructions carefully and methodically and soon I was on the road towards the college. I'd never changed a tire before, and i found the new experience satisfying and even sort of fun.

I got to the school, parked and then headed with my cymbals and sticks to the auditorium. Brecker wasn't there but the rest of the musicians  were there going over the music, which leaned heavily on some of Steps Ahead's music, most of which I was familiar with. As I was setting in and discussing what we were going to play, I couldn't help but notice how nervous and uptight most of the other players seemed, and also how I wasn't feeling that way.. Then it hit me, I had just changed my own tire which I had never done before. I was now going to play drums. Something I had been doing for decades. What could go wrong? IT WAS GOING TO BE FUN!

It was fun! The concert was a success. Brecker turned around to me at one point and said loudly, "You guys can play"! As I mentioned, I played with him again later that week, with similar results. The takeaway for me? No matter who you're playing with, listen, have fun, and give it your all, without self-consciousness. it usually goes well after that………..Thank you Mr. Brecker ( and flat tire) for this great lesson.

To close,  here's Brecker playing on Pat Metheny's Two Folk Songs" from then 40 Year old recording, 80/81. Still sounds as fantastic as the day it was released!

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