After a long battle with Leukemia, Michael Brecker has died. If you’ve ever hung around with any saxophonists for more than about, ooh, two minutes, you’ll know just how important Brecker is to the instrument. Just about every saxophonist I’ve ever met at one point wanted to play like him. The tenor sax colossus is obviously Coltrane, but post Coltrane, the standard bearer was Brecker – he took the instrument to new places, he wrote and recorded some incredible music, and gave saxophonists something to aim for.
I only saw him play once – at the Barbican in London. I went with Ben Castle, one of the many sax players who had spent years being massively influenced by him. Ben’s own playing has taken a fabulously unique turn since then, but he still had that uber-fan approach when we went to the gig. And Brecker was amazing – though on that particular gig, the opening act was the Roy Haynes trio with John Pattitucci and Danilo Perez, who played one of the greatest jazz gigs I’ve ever heard, so I came away singing their praises, whilst still full of the feeling that in Brecker I’d seen one of the greats.
To know what a place he occupies in my musical affections, you only need look at short list of his musical collaborators – Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, James Taylor – there’s the Stevie Holy Trinity of songwriters right there. the version of ‘Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight’ that he rerecorded with JT for one of his own albums about 4 or 5 years ago is one of the greatest things James has ever done. Breath-taking.
So he’ll be missed, hugely. An amazing musician, with an incredible legacy.by