Alice Coltrane and Michael Brecker, RIP

I was surprised and saddened to learn of the death of two jazz luminaries this weekend. Michael Brecker was a pretty stellar saxophonist, Grammy winner and collaborator with pop luminaries ranging from Paul Simon (“Still Crazy After All These Years,” The Rhythm of the Saints) to Steely Dan (Gaucho, Gold) to Parliament (Trombipulation) to a host of jazz gigs under his own leadership, including multiple Grammys. I will always remember him for his superbly wry and understated guest spot on Dave Brubeck’s Young Lions and Old Tigers, the “Michael Brecker Waltz.” Leukemia took him too soon.

I was saddened about Alice Coltrane too, though reportedly she had been in poor health for a number of years. Fans of her husband John’s work generally are of two minds regarding Alice’s contributions to his later works, when she replaced McCoy Tyner on piano in his performing ensembles. Either they think of her as Yoko to his John (particularly those who don’t like the later, more experimental albums), or they recognize her work as a passionate collaborator and an important contribution to the sound and concept of such albums (Expressions, Stellar Regions). She was also an important contributor to the work of McCoy Tyner himself (Extensions). She will be missed.