Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Town Hall Tribute to Michael Brecker

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of fame is that it does not allow grieving to be private. Less than a month after tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker’s untimely death, his family, friends, and members of the New York jazz community gathered at Town Hall for a public memorial service. It was an exceptionally well produced event, all the more impressive for the poise and grace of his young son and the entire Brecker family.

As the family requested, there was no tenor to be heard, aside from Brecker’s on tape and video tributes. There were still several moving performances of songs associated with Brecker, including brother Randy performing “Midnight Voyage.” Pat Metheny and Dave Liebman (on flute) offered solo tributes. Harbie Hancock performed “Chan’s Song” with a trio featuring John Patitucci and Jack DeJohnette, and then backed up Paul Simon on “Still Crazy After All These Years,” on which Brecker had contributed the original tenor solo, forever intimidating Simon’s future tenor players.

There is a conception of jazz funerals rooted in New Orleans tradition, but in New York they more high church in practice. When hundreds of well-wishers crowd into Town Hall, it is an expression of their respect for the man and proof of the emotional connection they feel with his music. One hopes that is a solace to the Brecker family.

Donation info:The family requests that donations be made to the Marrow Foundation’s Time is of the Essence Fund.