Lament for a Saxophonist
While driving yesterday, I heard on NPR that tenor saxophonist extraordinaire, Michael Brecker had died. NPR, for all its faults--nasal, effeminate male reporters; female reporters with terrible, prissy voices; leftwing "analysis"; snobbery; and more--at least knows how to cover jazz. (For some of you, this may lead you to suspect jazz. Here is some advice: Don't do that.) Brecker, who appeared on over 900 recordings, was 57 years old. This career covered over three decades While he recorded on a score of popular albums, I knew him for his more straight-ahead jazz work, which was exceptional. Brecker possessed a stentorian tone, perfect intonation, and abundant energy and stamina. He imbibed heavily at the well of Coltrane without succumbing to mere imitation or replication. Like all stellar jazzmen, he entered and mastered the tradition, resonating with its residual greatness, while adding his own prodigious chops. As Ben Ratliff of The New York Times put it, he learned the Coltrane language. But he spoke his own words in that language. Yes, he was a virtuoso--and a versatile one at that.
Michael Brecker is dead; the life work is complete; another soul passes into eternity, finality--leaving this world different than he found it. This is part of the greatness of humanity. We are creative, creatures of a Creator. We shape what we find; we add to what is already there and stamp it indelibly with our personalities--for better for worse. The given is taken and bears our imprint.
Let us lament the passing of Michael Brecker, a musician whose music helped lighten a bit the weight of this poor world. He added some aesthetic beauty to compensate for the ugliness. I wish there could have been more, but there is so much to explore.