I first met Jeff Breeze on the night of January 10th, 2009. The Boston Typewriter Orchestra was playing at a venue called the Whitehaus, which was literally someone’s Jamaica Plain apartment in a two-story house. Despite holding regular events, I get the sense that doing so probably wasn’t kosher as they were secretive about giving out the address. It wasn’t even on the flyer. It was a slushy night and I remember kids shucking a bucket of oysters at the kitchen table.
Jeff was impossible to miss when he walked in the room: tall, barrel-chested with a (let’s face it) skullet and a pink sweater. If he and the band exchanged more than introductions and pleasantries, I don’t recall. It was fairly low key meeting him and a fun night.
A month later he sent us an email inviting us to perform on his radio show Pipeline!, which highlights new music from New England bands and includes a live performance. The station is located in the basement of an MIT building, broadcasts on WMBR 88.1FM and airs Tuesdays at 8:00pm. Jeff ran it for 17 years.
At the time, his last name either wasn’t mentioned, didn’t register with me or I disregarded it as coincidence. On March 24th, 2009 we performed a half-hour set that I recall going really well; a few surprises, some unexpected laughs, and a great opportunity. After we played, he asked us if we had any shows lined up, one of which was a private fundraiser at a golf course in my hometown Stow. When he mentioned that he had grown up in Bolton, I asked whether he was related to one of my substitute teachers from elementary school. Turns out she’s his mother and I told him about how I had gone to a Ministry concert with one of his younger brothers back in high school. So Jeff and I grew up in neighboring towns and went to the same high school, but he was one year too old for us to have crossed paths and started college when I started high school.
In August of 2009, I needed to step away from the group. Being in grad school and handling the grueling logistics of, yes, a typewriter orchestra were starting to wear me down. During my time away from the group, I think I only saw them perform on one occasion before Jeff joined the group in 2013. I rejoined in 2015 and Jeff would be my bandmate for the next five and a half years.
Jeff’s contribution and impact on the group cannot be understated. He worked tirelessly in every facet of what it means to be in a band, effectively handling most of the management. The ties he had built for decades in the local and interstate music scenes were invaluable in navigating the live, touring and recording experience. He ran the band’s Instagram account like clockwork and his photography kept it fresh, current and engaging. He handled and laid out the design for all of our merch, culminating in the release of our most recent album. From the album design to the lockgroove in the vinyl to the hidden track to the writing and stellar performance, Jeff is all over it.
During rehearsals and in live performances, he almost always sat directly to my right. Whenever I was a bundle of nerves worrying about sound, performance or even whether we should be doing the gig at all, Jeff was a calming and confident presence. In the BTO sound palette, he supplied a lot of the odd supplemental percussion and his irreplaceable deep voice was our backup and response vocal. His tradeoffs with Jay in “Breaktime” were always a guaranteed laugh. While I mostly tried to focus intently to keep the wheels on the careening bus that is our live shows, Jeff would occasionally crack me up with an unexpected and obnoxious noise or some mechanical failure. When we were recording a series of bumpers for the Beyond Yacht Rock podcast, he accidentally sent a desk bell flying across the room with a big, dumb clatter to the ground. I laughed so hard, I was wheezing. This take can be heard on the track “50 States in 50 Podcasts”.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve typically been one of, if not, the youngest in any circle I happened to run in. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who exuded a big brotherly quality like Jeff did. And reading some of the remarks online, I know I wasn’t the only one who felt this because at least two or three other people warmly described him the same way: like a big brother. For my part, this certainly came with the knowledge that we had the shared experience of growing up a few miles apart, separated by a county border, in rural Massachusetts. When I rejoined the group, I was delighted to learn that he lived just a few short blocks away from me in Somerville. I walked past his place almost daily and one of the last times I saw him in person was to listen to the new album in his apartment. It sounded massive and I knew we had a release we could be really proud of.
He had an enviable and encyclopedic knowledge of music that can only come from a profound love of the art. He amassed countless records from his regular trips to yard and estate sales and bought indiscriminately while keeping an eye open for any good deals on passable typewriters or other instruments. He had a particular affection for Harry Nilsson.
He enjoyed trips to Revere Beach and Long Island, pick-up softball games at Foss Park and watching curling. He was well traveled in the United States and was a terrific writer.
He kept a running blog as an ice cream aficionado and could tell you where to get the best cone wherever you might be. He had talents in the kitchen and had a knack for knowing where to find any kind of food or ingredient. One day I was lamenting how you can’t find Utz Crab Chips in any stores in New England and he directed me to the Christmas Tree Shop about a mile away from my apartment. Sure enough, they were there. Once, while being a dork, I jokingly asked him if he considered himself a bon vivant. Of course he did.
During the pandemic, I was working on a transcription of some choral music and was soliciting some mix advice. Jeff put a bug in my ear to try to rework the song “Pipeline” in a similar fashion because he was looking for a new take on it for bed music. I was flattered that he used it for the last few months, my messy timing and amateurish mix notwithstanding.
Jeff’s last Pipeline! broadcast was November 3rd, 2020. He signed off by saying “Be safe. Be good”. Rest in Power, friend.
– Derrik Albertelli
Obituary for Jeffrey W. Breeze
Bolton-Jeffrey W. Breeze, 47, passed away suddenly Sunday, November 8, 2020 in his Somerville apartment. He is survived by his parents Roger and Leslie Breeze of Bolton, brothers Timothy Breeze and his wife Rebecca of Milton, and Peter Breeze and his wife Eileen of Northborough, along with nephews & niece Tommy, Maggie and Declan.
Jeffrey was born in Baltimore, Maryland and later grew up in Bolton. He graduated from Nashoba Regional High School, Class of 1991 and earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri in Columbia. Jeff was an editor and writer for many magazines.
He had an absolute love of music and was very involved in the Boston Music scene. Jeff performed as the proud bass member of the Boston Typewriter Orchestra and led all efforts of promotion. In August 2020 Jeff and fellow orchestra member, Alex Holman appeared on the Kelly Clarkson show. The Orchestra was able to record during this pandemic a new vinyl record – Workstation to Workstation.
Every Tuesday night at 8 PM since 2003, Jeff hosted and directed MIT’s WMBR Pipeline! radio show live. Each week he would introduce a new local band who would appear live on the show. Somehow, he followed up with each band and would often promote their new engagements on air. He was working on this Tuesday’s show over the weekend.
Jeffrey also had an ice cream blog and one of his favorite locations for Indian Pudding ice cream was at Rota Spring Farm in Sterling.
Jeffrey loved the Long Island beach house and got up early every morning to capture the sunrise. In the afternoon he would be found digging for clams, whether it be for the half shell eating, stuffed clams, or making Gramps’ clam chowder.
Curling was also a special interest for his statistical mind, learning almost every international team and their roster. He enjoyed the opportunity last year to try his own hand at curling with the Broomstones Curling Club in Wayland.
Jeff was always ready for a pickup game of softball or wiffleball. He played softball every Saturday with his brother Tim and their team at the Somerville fields. Whenever he found a wiffleball he would find someone, often his nephews to play with, whether it be catch or hitting the ball as far as possible.
Family was important to Jeff. He never missed the chance when anyone was off to see out of state relatives to be part of the journey. Jeffrey cared about everyone and found ways to show it continually.