I just listened to a great solo version of Round Midnight/Monk’s Mood from 2002 by Mike Brecker. Talk about effortless technique! This is the thing that always grabs me first with Mike’s playing. He is so fluid and effortless sounding. I know he worked hard for that technique with constant practicing and study. It never seemed to lessen his whole career. Even in his early stuff with Horace Silver he is playing with incredible facility. I think he listened to a lot of guitar players and so some of that comes from hearing a non-wind instrument and the lack of concern with airflow etc. The notes just flow one into the other with no apparent concern for register, volume or inflection.
I was also struck by how dark and multi faceted his sound became in the last 20 years of his life. His early stuff sounded different, brighter and harder edged. That early sound thing might have also come from guitar players. I can imagine playing a lot of funk/rock/fusion stuff as Mike did in the 70’s and 80’s and listening to guitar players with effects and distortion could have shaped his sound. Whatever the case, he sounded beautiful on this live recording with a darker sound that changed slightly with every phrase, a truly living, breathing sound. I have listened to Mike a lot over the years but this performance still surprised me. Life is one long saxophone lesson it seems!