Brecker Extras VI: Catching Up with Jazz Video Guy
Updated: Feb 13, 2022
Longtime friend and colleague Bret Primack (we both wrote for JazzTimes magazine during the '90s and early 2000s) was so ahead of the curve on the computer tip that he really left all of us fellow jazz scribes behind long before we got hip to digital technology. A self-described "dotcom warrior," Bret self-published a 2003 e-book, "How To Make It Big in the New Music Biz: A Step by Step Guide," in which he addressed the possibilities of the digital age with advice for his readers to take advantage of what was clearly becoming a changing musical landscape. As he told JazzTimes at the time: "I believe the Internet is an incredible tool for empowerment, a way for musicians to take control of the marketing and distribution of their music. I wrote this book as a guide for musicians, explaining the nature of the medium and the digital tools available. My goal is to help musicians develop a global audience for their music.”
By 2006, Primack reinvented himself as the Jazz Video Guy, launching a YouTube channel of various performances and backstage interviews that he had done with jazz greats during his career to showcase, as he said, "My appreciation for, my love of, my knowledge of this music and the people who have played it."
A graduate of NYU Film School, where he studied with Martin Scorcese, he began producing websites for jazz musicians and in 1994 launched Jazz Central Station, the first dedicated jazz website. He also began documenting live gigs, including an incredible 1999 performance at Birdland by the Saxophone Summit (David Liebman, Michael Brecker and Joe Lovano with bassist Rufus Reid, pianist Phil Markowitz, drummer Billy Hart). By 2004, with the advent of mini-dv camcorders and more sophisticated computer editing capabilities, Primack began creating website footage for jazz artists like Joe Lovano, Sonny Rollins and Billy Taylor and EPKs for labels like Blue Note and Telarc. And when YouTube was launched in March of 2005, Bret was there. To date, he has posted nearly 3000 videos on YouTube as Jazz Video Guy that have attracted over fifty million views. His most recent film is the feature length documentary They Will Not Replace Us, about American anti-Semitism. The film made its online premiere on February 1, 2022: theywillnotreplaceus.com
Bret recently sat me down to talk about my book "Ode to a Tenor Titan: The Life and Times and Music of Michael Brecker." We spoke for two hours and he later edited the footage into a dozen or more chapters, intercut with live footage of Michael and Randy Brecker in action. Here are Chapters 9-14: