Barry Finnerty, a guitarist who worked with Michael Brecker in the Brecker Brothers band of the late 1970s, has posted a lengthy reminiscence about his friend. It includes this paragraph:
He used to take his humility to extremes sometimes… he would complain to me that he hated his own playing, was tired of all his licks, that he felt he was doing nothing but endlessly repeating himself on every solo he took. I couldn’t sympathize with him too much on that one. I’d tell him, “I should be able to repeat myself like that!” Besides, I would console him, he was the only one that could tell! There was one lick he used to play a lot that actually became kind of a private joke between us. It was a lightning-fast pentatonic scale riff in groups of 6, going up chromatically… I figured it out and started to play it in my solos, giving him a wink out of the corner of my eye, and then he would do the same to me when it was his turn. Once he came into a club where I was playing, and I spotted him in the back…and when it came time for my solo, I cranked up the distortion and looked him right in the eye as I blasted out the lick for the first thing I played! It cracked him up.
To read all of Finnerty’s essay, which includes the little-known story of Brecker’s redemption from drugs, go to his web page.