This article was originally published by FYIMusicNews.

I became aware of saxophonist Michael Brecker through his brother Randy’s debut album, Score, in 1969. It was one of those turntable discoveries that never left replay mode. From that moment, I had to have everything that Michael recorded from that time when he was 18 years old until his untimely passing in 2007.

Michael Brecker was an original, a player you looked to for a clear view of the future. His influence and grasp of varying genres were way beyond jazz. His signature sound is inscribed on recordings with Steely Dan, Billy Joel, the Average White Band, Parliament-Funkadelic, James Taylor, Pat Metheny, Quincy Jones, and even a stint in the ’80s with the Saturday Night Live Band. His catalogue is so expansive, it’s almost beyond comprehension.

I caught up with Brecker in June, 1987, during Toronto’s Du Maurier International Jazz Festival at the Royal York Hotel.

My final encounter with him was as a hired photographer for Verve Records to document the Destinations Music concert at Massey Hall on Oct. 25, 2001, featuring Brecker along with Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, John Patitucci and Brian Blade. I spent soundcheck orbiting around the hall, snapping until I felt something of interest presented itself.

Brecker was fine-tuning his electronic EWI to the building. What a sound! The room shivered under the ricocheting beauty of each tested phrase. Brecker paused and called me over.

“Are you cool?”

I was taken back by the question.

He then asks, “Are you here from the record company?”

I laid out the photo plan and my intentions.

“Cool,” he says.

I then mentioned that we had had a sit-down conversation years back at the Royal York, and how otherworldly the sax sounded in this grand institution. He then talked about the technical set-up and how he was trying to reach every corner of the room. I assured him that he had accomplished that.

As I look back to our original conversation in 1987, I’m struck by how early in his career this was. I’m asking starting-point questions; I probably wouldn’t ask them today, but they tell so much about his early years.

There’s something special about those early years: the discovery, the setbacks, the sense of self, the boldness, and the will to take action and bend all the rules.