MICHAEL BRECKER

For more than a month jazz fans throughout the world have been concerned about the health of the famous saxophonist Michael Brecker and, hearing sad news, are downcast. The musician's wife, Susan, appealed for help from readers in the USA in 'Life' magazine on 29th July. Michael Brecker needed one or more donors for a bone marrow transplant.

Michael Brecker

It all began in August 2004 at the Mount Fuji Jazz Festival in Japan, during Brecker's performance. At first he felt an ache in his waist and thought it was a muscle spasm as a result of his long tour and thought it could be resolved by a massage. But it became clear that these aches were symptoms of cancer: now the musician's life is under threat, the disease was identified as myelodisplastic syndrome (a form of bone marrow cancer). According to doctors, the only hope for the patient is the aforementioned transplant.

Michael Brecker

After a seven week course of chemotherapy, Michael is bed-ridden at home in Hastings-on-Hudson (a district in north New York). The 56-year-old saxophonist, who has received 11 Grammy awards, had to cancel appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival (including playing in the 'Saxophone Summit' project with colleagues Joe Lovano and Dave Liebman, and another guest appearance with 'Steps Ahead' with whom he played in the 1970s) and has stopped playing. In place of Brecker, Steps Ahead asked Bill Evans, recently a guest of Moscow jazz lovers, to play. But Lovano and Liebman decided there could be no replacement for Brecker and they dedicated their performance to Michael.
Michael Brecker

During the Newport Festival there were appeals for a donor for Brecker and more than 300 musicians, organisers and audience members offered to undergo analysis: they hope that their blood will match Brecker's bone marrow cells and will be suitable to help him (this involves a delicate surgical process). Potential donors have also come forward at other jazz festivals, eg. at the Red Sea Jazz Festival at Eilat (Israel). Doctors believe that a suitable donor, considering Brecker's ethnicity, is most likely to be found among the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. It is a pity that even the bone marrow of his close relatives, including his children, 16 year old Jessica and 12 year old Sam, do not match his own.

Michael Brecker

Brecker said in a telephone interview with Associated Press that giving up music (temporarily, everyone hopes) was spiritually difficult, but colleagues (pianist Herbie Hancock, singer Diana Krall have helped him financially) and letters of sympathy and encouragement give him great support.