I know EXACTLY where I was 10 years ago today, the day Michael Brecker died: I was in New York, at the International Association of Jazz Educators conference.
I’ll never forget that experience: virtually the entire New York jazz universe was there (including Michael’s brother, Randy), along with folks from all over the world, and as the news spread hundreds of People Who Actually Knew Why This Was A Big Deal were hugging and crying and grieving together.
It was terribly sad, and it was also beautiful and moving: I’ve always considered “jazz people” a family of sorts, but I’ve never lived that admittedly hopeful and optimistic notion so fully, and have it become so real for me.
I was moved to see jazz titans — legends, performers I’ve idolized and elevated to near godlike status over the years, my heroes — grieve this loss and be so very … human. But that shouldn’t have been a surprise: nearly every one of the “Jazz Gods” I’ve ever met has been a beautiful, humble person, as much an inspiration off the bandstand as on. I’ve never met him, but I’m told Michael Brecker was like that too.
He was a huge influence on me (as he was for nearly every saxophonist who came after him), but he was also in some ways SO overwhelming (technically, musically, and even in terms of his ability to play compellingly across jazz and even pop music genres) that he’s seemed nearly beyond the scope of a mere mortal like me — he was the first saxophonist I referred to, only half kidding, as “post-human.”
I considered Michael Brecker — who we’ve been without for 10 years but who’s also with me nearly every damn day when I pick up a horn and try to make something happen — just about untouchable!