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Michael Brecker's Final Album, 'Pilgrimage' Could be His Best

Saxophonist Michael Brecker made many fine recordings as a sideman and a soloist during his career. But his final album, recorded just five months before his death, may be his best, however. VOA's Doug Levine has more.

After a long battle with leukemia, Michael Brecker died last January at age 57. During his darkest moments, his spirits were lifted by doing what he enjoyed doing most, playing jazz.

Those closest to Michael, his collaborators on his final album Pilgrimage, saw firsthand the toll the disease was taking on their dedicated bandleader. Miraculously, Brecker rose above the physical rigors of the studio and committed himself fully to completing the album.

On working with Brecker during their brief but intense recording session, guitarist Pat Metheny said, "Mike just left us some of the greatest music of his career, and of his life."

Pianist Herbie Hancock added, "Michael has gone up another notch with his writing and playing."

Following years of studio work with some of rock and pop's biggest stars, Michael Brecker rose to fame with his older brother Randy in their jazz-fusion band, The Brecker Brothers. Since the release of his first solo album in 1987, Michael picked up 13 Grammy Awards for performing and composing. His most recent two Grammys were awarded posthumously in February for his appearance on his brother's album, Some Skunk Funk.

Performing alongside Brecker, Metheny and Hancock on Pilgrimage are pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Jack DeJohnette, who said, "Everybody was rooting everybody else on, not just musically, but personally and spiritually."

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