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Jazz Great Brecker: A 'Pilgrimage' Before Dying

Michael Brecker plays in July 2000 at a concert in Nice, France.
Vanina Lucchesi
AFP/Getty Images
Michael Brecker plays in July 2000 at a concert in Nice, France.

It's said that jazz musicians respond to two types of inspiration. The first is the muse within themselves — the one that gives birth to the musical ideas in their compositions, their solos and their musical identity. The second is the unspoken communication they share with the people with whom they make music.

Saxophonist Michael Brecker responded to both.

Brecker was a multiple Grammy winner who played in a variety of jazz settings and even crossed over to the world of pop music. He died in January at 57 from leukemia, the end result of a two-year struggle against myelodysplastic syndrome, a form of cancer that affects the bone marrow.

Shortly before he died, Brecker summoned the strength to record one more album with musicians who were long-time musical partners, as well as friends.

Discussing Brecker's legacy are two of those musicians — pianist Herbie Hancock and guitarist Pat Metheny — as well as Darryl Pitt, Brecker's long-time manager and the executive producer of Brecker's last record, Pilgrimage.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.

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