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Jazz World Mourns Saxophonist, Composer Michael Brecker

Renowned jazz saxophonist and composer Michael Brecker died January 13 of leukemia in a New York City hospital. He was 57 years old. As VOA's Doug Levine tells us, Brecker's impact on today's generation of jazz hopefuls is immeasurable.

Michael Brecker's wide appeal brought him multiple Grammy Awards, and won the admiration of aspiring jazz musicians everywhere. Many of today's young jazz stars, especially sax players, say Brecker's prolific body of work was one of the reasons they pursued jazz.

Philadelphia native Michael Brecker had been a mainstay in jazz for more than 35 years. He found work almost immediately after his arrival in New York in 1970. At 21, he was a member of the short-lived fusion band Dreams, featuring his older brother Randy on trumpet. Following stints with Horace Silver and Billy Cobham, Michael reunited with Randy to form The Brecker Brothers Band, a groundbreaking jazz-rock group that had a successful seven-year run from 1975 to 1982.

Michael Brecker was one of the busiest studio musicians of the 1980s. Recordings by Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Steely Dan and James Taylor are among hundreds that feature his melodic tenor sax solos.

In 1987, Michael Brecker released his first solo album to much acclaim. It won jazz album of the year awards in both Downbeat and Jazziz magazines. World tours and non-stop recording dates kept him busy for years after.

Jazziz recently called Brecker "inarguably the most influential tenor stylist of the last 25 years." Four of Brecker's 11 Grammy Awards came in the past five years, including a pair for his 2003 album, Wide Angles. His final performance was with pianist Herbie Hancock at Carnegie Hall in June 2006. Though his health had deteriorated, he was able to finish work on a new album due out later this year.