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Festival of New Trumpet Music Honors Randy Brecker, and "Brass Without Borders"

Merry Cyr

The Festival of New Trumpet Music, founded by Dave Douglas in 2003, has always favored a broad stylistic approach along with its clear focus on a single instrument.

"The variety of things people are doing with this clump of metal never ceases to amaze me, so we go as wide as we can," says Douglas. "And the fact that the festival is focused on an instrument and not a style of music means that it can be just about anything. We find new areas of work people are doing every year."

The 2021 edition of FONT Music, which will be presented virtually from Sept. 8 through 15, features trumpeters from 15 countries — including Germany (Axel Dörner), Canada (Lina Allemano), South Africa (Sthembiso Bhengu) and the UK (Yazz Ahmed).

Since 2008, FONT Music has also bestowed an Award of Recognition, celebrating pioneers like Kenny Wheeler, Charles Tolliver and Wadada Leo Smith. This year's honoree is seven-time Grammy winner Randy Brecker, whose career has spanned everything from hard-bop to prog-rock to Brazilian music, with a trailblazing period devoted to The Brecker Brothers, a pugnacious fusion band.

"I've played at the festival several times," Brecker says, "and I'm always impressed with the organization, the thoughtfulness and the world spirit."

In this conversation for the WBGO, Brecker and Douglas joined me to talk about that global spirit, the ongoing mission of mentorship, and their shared rejection of musical categories.

Brecker will receive his honor on Sept. 15, in a special presentation; it will include performance by the awardee with saxophonist Ada Rovatti and pianist Gil Goldstein. "At 75 years old, one thing that makes me proud is when I hear that I have had some influence on some other musicians," Brecker says. "It makes me just feel great."

Nate Chinen
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