Renowned Tenor Saxophonist Michael Brecker Dies at 57

Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
Internationally recognized tenor saxophonist and composer Michael Brecker – an 11-time Grammy Award winner – died of leukemia on January 13 at age 57. Brecker was afflicted with MDS, myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow disorder.

As a result of his harmonic and stylistic innovations, Brecker was the most studied contemporary instrumentalist in music schools throughout the world. During his acclaimed career, Brecker delighted millions through recordings and performances with a virtual “Who’s Who” of jazz and pop giants including Herbie Hancock, Paul Simon, Quincy Jones, Joni Mitchell, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Aretha Franklin, Parliament Funkadelic, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Pat Metheny, Aerosmith, George Benson, Frank Sinatra, David Sanborn, Chris Botti, Rick James, Frank Zappa, Harry Connick, James Brown, Dave Grusin, Ringo Starr, Steely Dan, Dave Brubeck, John Lennon, Lou Reed, Michael Bolton, Carly Simon, Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Billy Joel and Elton John.Although he was very sick, Brecker completed a final album just two weeks ago, which will be released on Heads Up International in the spring of 2007. The as-yet-untitled recording includes pianists Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau, guitarist Pat Metheny, drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist John Patitucci.

Darryl Pitt, Brecker’s longtime friend and manager, says the saxophonist was very enthusiastic about the final work. According to Pitt, “In addition to the love of his family and friends, his work on this project helped keep him alive and will be another jewel in his legacy.”

Michael Brecker was such a major influence on today’s generation of jazz musicians and students of jazz.” says Dave Love, President of Heads Up. “This is a great loss for the music community, but his saxophone stylings will live on through all jazz saxophone players. He was an inspiration to so many young players.”

Brecker was recently nominated for a GRAMMY Award in the category of Best Jazz Instrumental Solo for Some Skunk Funk with his brother Randy Brecker and the WDR Big Band, released on Telarc in June 2006.

One of the most influential tenor saxophonists of our time, Michael Brecker
fused traditional jazz with pop, rock and R&B to create a sound that was
uniquely his own
,” said Neil Portnow of The Recording Academy. “His
compositional and technical talents can be heard on numerous solo efforts as
well as on recordings with some of the greatest pop, R&B and rock acts around.
With 11 GRAMMY Awards to his long list of credits, all genres of music will be
affected by the loss of this remarkable musician and this talented human being

There is no known single cause of MDS and the only curative therapy is a blood stem cell (bone marrow) transplant. In an attempt to help Brecker, a massive donor drive was organized, and thousands of people were encouraged to enter the National Marrow Donor Program Registry [ or 800-MARROW-2]. Each year, approximately 9,000 people die in the U.S. while waiting for a bone marrow donor.

Brecker is survived by his wife, Susan; his children, Jessica and Sam; his brother, Randy; and his sister, Emily Brecker Greenberg. Memorial services are planned.