Aug 22, 2019
This coming weekend, August 25-27, the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat, Israel, will host the semifinals and finals of the first Michael Brecker International Saxophone Competition. Eight selected aspiring talented musicians will arrive in Eilat to participate in the semi-final round on the morning of the second day of the festival. Only three will continue to the final round performance to be held on the main stage as part of the festival program. The three finalists will appear in front of a live audience and a panel of judges to compete for up to $12,500.00 in prize money and international acclaim while carrying on the flame of Michael Brecker’s legacy. The panel of judges of this inaugural competition includes acclaimed musicians Ron Carter, Kenny Garrett, Donny McCaslin and Eli Degibri.
Numerous saxophonists aged 16-30 from around the globe applied to participate in this one of a kind competition. Inspired by the legacy of legendary saxophone player, Michael Brecker, this competition is a joint initiative created by many including the Red Sea Jazz Festival artistic director, Degibri, and chairman of the Friends Association, Yuri Guy-Ron, in collaboration with the Brecker family including Michael’s widow, Susan, and his long-time manager, Darryl Pitt. The competition would not have been possible without the generosity of Herb Alpert, and the Municipality of Eilat itself.
Judges Melissa Aldano, Marcus Strickland and Ben Wendel selected the following eight players to travel to Eilat: Artem Badenko, Niall Cade, Nathan Bellott, Alex Hahn, Sheridan Hitchcock, Sean Payne, Daniel Varga, and Alex Weitz.
In 2007, at the age of 57, the great musician Michael Brecker passed away from cancer. His legacy as a composer, tenor saxophonist and 15-time Grammy winner is awe-inspiring. Regarded as the natural successor of saxophonist John Coltrane, his virtuoso playing has had a profound influence on generations of musicians. From his pioneering work in Fusion with his brother Randy in Dreams and the Brecker Brother; to his performances on over 700 albums as a leader or sideman, Michael was the preeminent first call saxophonist in the world for more than twenty years. As you will here in the podcast conversation with Susan Brecker and Darryl Pitt, he was also a giving, sharing individual who never turned down a young player’s requests for guidance or provide feedback to anyone sending him an unsolicited tape of their playing.
Podcast 697 is my conversation about the Michael Brecker International Saxophone Competition with Susan and Darryl, as we discuss the genesis of the project; why the Red Sea Festival is the natural place for its initial culmination; and plans for the future, which is likely a bi- or tri-annual competition. Musical selections from the great Michael Brecker include "Talking To Myself" from Don't Try This at Home, and "Loose Threads" from his final CD, Pilgrimage.