Riveting Riffs Logo One Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond
Ada Rovatti and Randy Brecker Photo One

There is something about sitting down for an interview with two people whom you have known for many years, although most of that from a distance, that has more of the feel of friends getting together for a visit, a comfortable conversation if you like. Ada Rovatti and Randy Brecker’s new album, Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond creates that same mood when you listen to the collection of songs composed and arranged by Ada Rovatti. The musicians who play on the album were drawn together by Randy Brecker and the album was masterfully recorded at Bunker Studios by Aaron Nevezie, while Cynthia Daniels put her magical touch on the mixing and mastering of the album. Just a word about Cynthia Daniels, we could not possibly do justice to her career, the many artists with whom she has worked, or the Broadway productions, films and television shows that have her fingerprints on them, so we encourage you to visit her website.

Ada Rovatti and Randy Brecker Photo TwoIn proper journalism practice first names alone are seldom used when referring to the one being interviewed however, in this situation when conversing with the husband and wife team of Randy Brecker and Ada Rovatti and our familiarity with them it somehow would not feel right to refer to them by their last names, so we are going to cast protocol aside. Their daughter Stella also appears on this album, but her demands for a significant appearance fee could not be met by Riveting Riffs Magazine and before anyone takes us seriously, we are joking folks, but we did want to give Stella a nod for her singing performance on the opening track "Sacred Bond," as well as making a debut on her mom and dad’s album.

When this writer opens the conversation by saying the songs on this album seem to create a peaceful vibe and a calming effect for the listener, Randy replies, “I have to agree. Usually, when I do records, after I am done I never want to hear them again, but this one I really enjoy listening to it.”

Given that it is his wife’s music he is talking about that is probably a pretty good move and Ada seems to agree as she chuckles and says “Thank you Randy.”

As to why this was the right time for Randy, Ada and Stella to record an album like this, Randy says, “Ada can speak to this, but for me I watched all of these tunes slowly develop. She was spending a lot of time writing and truthfully I wasn’t. I have been on the road a lot and I was more concentrating on keeping my chops up on the horn (trumpet and flugelhorn) and it just seemed like a good idea to record all of these songs. People seemed to like the family idea and she obviously means a lot to me and that is how the idea first formed in my mind. Ada might have a different take on it, but I heard all of these tunes develop and I loved all of them.”

“Since we have been playing together for a while, we decided to play half of his tunes and half of mine. Then little by little, because Randy was on the road so much, I was the one working on the compositions and (eventually) I had enough to do a full CD. Randy listened to the charts and he really liked them. Also, Stella has always been singing our songs and she has a very good memory for them. In the car when I was playing my sequences she was forced to listen (light laughter) I could hear her singing along, so I came up with the idea to include her.”

Randy says, “It was the right thing at the right time for all of us.”

As for how their daughter Stella felt about being on the album, Ada starts to laugh, before saying, “She asked if she was going to be paid.”

Taking this a step further Randy adds, “We performed “Sacred Bond,” on the Jazz cruise and after the first gig Stella came up to me and said, dad you have to guarantee me that I will be able to hear myself next time.  Welcome to the real world.”

We wondered if because Randy Brecker and Ada Rovatti are married to each other and have played together that would result in it being just a snap for them when they stepped into the studio to record Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond.

Randy begins with, “They are really pleasant (songs) to listen to, but on the other side of the coin, strangely enough they are not that easy to play, which is what makes them interesting.  They are more complicated than they seem, so I really had to put some time in, just to learn the music. The session went pretty smoothly. There was a lot to do, especially with the rhythm section guys who were pretty well sight-reading everything and they really did well. That part for me was really impressive.

It was also impressive the way that Ada handled it. She was in charge and she knew all of the music backwards and forwards. She just stepped up and really took care of biz. It is all tightly written out and we spent some time fixing things and editing. It wasn’t like the old days when you would go into the studio, play some easy tunes that everybody knew and you would come out in an hour with a record. This was more involved.”

Ada continues, “I also tend to be a control freak when it comes down to the music. The parts in the melody are written out for the basslines. Of course when it comes down to the solo I leave freedom for the musician to just go for it. The melody parts, the arrangements are written out for everyone, not just the chord changes, but voicings too, so it takes quite a bit of time to play them in the right way.”

“I think they did especially well. I kind of put the band together. I played with this young man Alex Claffy (acoustic and electric bass) in Philly where I am from and where he happens to be from.  I was doing a gig at a club there with and he had just flown in from somewhere. I was really impressed with his playing on acoustic double bass and electric, so I thought of him for this. He had never played with our drummer Rodney Holmes, but it turned out he had played with (David) Kikoski (piano, Fender Rhodes). I was taking a chance on the whole thing, so I was sweating that everything would work out. I was pleasantly surprised when they all sounded great together. We barely had any rehearsal time. It was incredible really,” says Randy.  

The song “Sacred Bond,” arises out of, “The special bond that I have with Stella and with Randy and that Randy has with me and with Stella. In a way it is sacred and a special bond. I wanted to put that into music. All three of us are musicians, Stella is a singer and we just wanted to interact in a musical way. That’s it. We are lucky.”

We weren’t going to let them get off that easily, without asking how an American trumpeter and flugelhorn player and an Italian saxophone player and composer met and fell in love. Ada Rovatti and Randy Brecker Photo Three

Ada starts to laugh and says, “Randy and I have different recollections (of how we met). Randy was a guest in a big band in Switzerland. I went there as a spokesperson of another big band and one with which I was working. Switzerland is pretty close to where I am from. I gave him the music and the airplane ticket for the following week and when he would be the guest in our Italian big band.

I had just returned from Berklee College of Music and I was going to spend the summer in Italy and then move to Paris. For the next couple of years if Randy was close to Paris we would meet and then I moved to New York. I was twenty-three (years of age) and he was fifty-one, so it was a little interesting scenario.”

Randy picks up the story from there, “She was a little too young for me, so I kept putting it off, as a serious commitment, but that thought process gradually changed, because we got along so well. It took five years. We started seeing each other and then she started to move closer and closer to my apartment it seemed to me.”

“I was from the Upper West Side, then Manhattan and Brooklyn and then Queens,” says Ada.  

Randy says, “She kept moving closer and closer to my apartment (the both laugh).”

Ada jokes, while still laughing, “I was a stalker! The groupie turned into a stalker and then into a wife.”

Back to you Randy, “It just developed. I finally realized it is all just numbers if we are in love and to just go for it. At first the age thing was a little too much for me to handle.”

Our conversation about the song “Sacred Bond,” covered a wider scope of the music composed by Ada Rovatti and Randy explains, “They are all pleasant to listen to, but at the same time they are complex enough that there is a lot of musical interest and that is really unusual I think. It is hard to mix the two elements of lyricism and complexity. It is usually one or the other or at least I know when I write, my tunes are sometimes not easy to listen to. Ada has a particular melodic thing that seems to come through or that is really easily developed and she will just take it to the point when it doesn’t get overly complex. She knows when to stop and that is one thing I never do or I will always add another section or somebody will say you need something here and I come up with three million notes. I think the main connection between all of the tunes is the dichotomy; they are so easy to listen to, but …”

At this point Ada interjects and Randy agrees, “they are challenging to play and they are fun.”

Randy jumps back in with, “…and if you are a musician you can hear the fact that the harmony is very sophisticated.

“..and it still makes it fun. I like to play hard music, just because I feel my brain is challenged and I like that part,” says Ada.  

“The Other Side of the Coin,” one of the two songs from this album that possesses a Brazilian groove creates a relaxed ambience, with Randy Brecker’s trumpet and Ada Rovatti’s saxophone talking to each other in subtle tones. Alexander Claffy’s whispering bass solo is pretty and Rodney Holmes’ drumming is smooth and subdued.

“The Other Side of the Coin,” is the idea that for every story there is the other side of the coin. Especially with having a young child I have become more aware of certain things and I want to be sure that I give her the tools to understand the behavior of maybe some other kids. I might say listen these kids may have done something bad, but I am always trying to make Stella aware that there is a different reality. Before judging maybe find out more about it,” explains Ada Rovatti.

Ada suggests that there are similarities between Brazilian music and Italian music, “It is probably more the lifestyle of a Latino country. It is more laidback and (the music) has more of a laidback feel, more to the feel than to the rhythm.”

“Some of the tunes without even Ada knowing it lend themselves to being altered just a bit and they fit within a Brazilian (Ada adds the word beat) or rhythm. Immediately after I heard a couple of the (songs) I thought of my old friend Cafe’ Da Silva (percussionist for this album) and I hadn’t played with him for a long time, but I was very close to him. I just heard him on a lot of these (songs) and indeed he came and played on every one of them. It was just an easy fit.

Ada is right in the fact that if anything Italy is known for songs in Opera and Pop music and that is the tradition in Brazil too. The harmony is a little more pronounced and dramatic in Brazilian music and the sensibilities are different in the two countries. There is a connection there,” says Randy.  

We take a slight diversion from discussing Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond to discuss some of Ada’s musical background.

Ada Rovatti and Randy Brecker Photo Four“There is a word in Italian that describes Italy as a beautiful chant. We have so much classical literature and amazing songs from traditional to classical and (Giuseppe) Verdi. (Giacomo) Puccini is one of my favorites. When I was growing up, every summer I went to the festivals. I studied classical music for twelve years. I was a classically trained pianist and my grandmother was a pianist. I have always liked nice melodies and what makes them catchy, because you remember the piece. Definitely the melody always played an important role in my writing and it came naturally. I didn’t study composition at school.

That last sentence surprised this writer and even more so her husband Randy who says, “I never knew that you didn’t study composition,” which makes her gifts as a composer even more extraordinary.

“I compose on the piano. Somehow I always manage to put in a perfect range for B Flat instruments. I always pick a key that works nicely on the saxophone.  I guess there is knowledge that is in the back of the brain and you kind of know to choose the right range,” says Ada.  

Jim Beard’s pretty keyboard playing introduces us to “Helping Hands,” before he switches to the organ, before being joined by Randy Brecker’s trumpet. The mid-tempo rhythm invites you to dance and if you close your eyes you are swept away to another place and perhaps time. Ada Rovatti’s saxophone solo is exquisite and is followed by Alexander Claffy’s fabulous acoustic bass solo. This is just one of many beautiful songs on this extraordinary album.

Ada talks about “Helping Hands,” and the story behind it, “The idea (comes from) giving help to someone who has a need and it is also about respect and kindness. I think these days we see less and less of that.” 

The soulful, R & B meets Jazz feel to the song “Reverence,” makes it aptly named and you are about to learn why, as Ada defers to Randy for the explanation, because as she says he came up with the title.

“I can just say that when I first heard “Reverence,” it had a Gospel, churchy intent and we thought of dedicating it to Aretha (Franklin) who had just passed. I had done some recordings with her throughout the years and Ada did a couple of live gigs with her. We didn’t really know her. I don’t think either of us said a word to her. You weren’t supposed to talk to her during the sessions. I was sitting next to her in a dressing room and we were all told you can’t talk to her. It just seemed natural to change the title to “Reverence.”

Jim Beard plays the Hammond B3 organ and Adam Roger’s plays the guitar on “Reverence.”

Randy adds, “(The organ was added) to enhance the Gospel effect. I think that is one of the best tunes on the record. It is a lot of fun to play live.

We miss Aretha of course and doing those records. There was one (live) record years ago and she just happened to be singing when I was standing two feet in front of her in the trumpet section. It was really unforgettable.”

We jokingly ask Ada Rovatti if her song “Brainwashed,” is an instrumental version of a protest song in the vein of Joan Baez or Bob Dylan back in the day.

“I guess so. You can hear references if you listen closely to the song “If I Only Had a Brain,” (Harold Arlen – music, Yip Harburg – lyrics) at the beginning and I gave it the title “Brain Washed,” which is totally reflective of the political situation for this day in this country. I have dual citizenship, so I am also American and I have every right to say what I am thinking about (She laughs lightly).

The eighth track from this collection of ten songs is “Mirror,” and Ada simply explains that it is about her being reflective, as she looks at herself in the mirror and notices how she is aging.  

“I might like some stuff and I might not like some other stuff. (The song) is my conversation, as I am watching myself in the mirror,” she says.

As we close out 2019 Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond is the best Jazz album we have listened to this year. In fact, as we close out the decade we think it is safe to say this is the prettiest Jazz album we have listened to during this ten year segment of our magazine’s existence.   Yes Stella, we know mom and dad could not have done without your help.

Please visit Ada Rovatti’s website here and you can visit Randy Brecker’s website here.    Return to Our Front Page

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This interview by Joe Montague  published December 29th,2019 is protected by copyright © and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine All Rights Reserved.  All photos are the the property of Ada Rovatti and Randy Brecker unless otherwise noted and all  are protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved. This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine, All Rights Reserved