BY ANDREY HENKIN | As 2007 fades into memory, a vital exercise is to memorialize those figures lost in the past 12 months. What follows is ten jazz legends lost in 2007 – a small part of a larger list, all deserving of their own commemoration, and a woefully inadequate list of their accomplishments.
One half of the Brecker Brothers with trumpeter Randy, tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker was often called an heir to the legacy of John Coltrane. He was both an accomplished leader and one of the most ubiquitous sidemen in jazz and pop. Brecker passed January 13 at 57.
Ten jazz legends whose musical journeys ended in 2007
Continuing the Coltrane theme, bassist Art Davis is most known for his association with the saxophonist in the '60s but also performed with many of the legendary figures of jazz throughout a five-decade career. Davis passed July 29 at 72.
Pianist Andrew Hill was one of the most significant modern composers in the jazz canon, releasing some of the most important albums on the Blue Note label in the '60s. He had recently left that label and reestablished his primacy. Hill passed April 20 at 69.
Violinist Leroy Jenkins almost single-handedly introduced his instrument into the avant-garde jazz realm, as co-leader of the '70s trio The Revolutionary Ensemble and on his own. Jenkins was also integral to developing the template for solo performance still used today. Jenkins passed February 24 at 74.
Saxophonist Frank Morgan was both a cautionary and inspirational tale in jazz. His enormous potential cut off very young in the mid-'50s with a series of drug convictions, Morgan would not return to playing full-time until 1985, spending the next two decades fulfilling that early promise. Morgan passed December 14 at 73.
Pianist Oscar Peterson was one of the most significant figures in jazz history, a seminal player since the mid-'40s. Known for his blindingly fast fingers, the last 15 years saw Peterson recovering his form after a stroke. He remained a fan favorite. Peterson passed December 23 at 82.
The swing that defines jazz for many would not exist without drummer Max Roach. One of the fathers of bebop, Roach also placed political awareness squarely in the forefront of the jazz consciousness. Roach passed August 15 at 83.
Trombonist Paul Rutherford's unique style was a mainstay element of almost all important avant-garde European jazz from the early '60s to today. He was also the developer of many progressive technical approaches to the instrument. Rutherford passed August 5 at 67.
Clarinetist Tony Scott was not only significant for keeping the instrument relevant after the demise of the big band era but for his prescience in involving world music into jazz long before it was popular or politically correct. Scott passed March 28 at 85.
Keyboardist Joe Zawinul began as a sideman but quickly gained importance for his work in the early fusion movement, both with founding father Miles Davis and as the co-leader of fusion supergroup Weather Report with Wayne Shorter and Jaco Pastorius. Zawinul passed September 11 at 75.