Sara Caswell - Violin
Gordon Webster- Piano
Jan 15 2007
I write this a few hours after Mike's funeral, Monday Jan 15. It was as you could imagine quite moving and quite sad. He leaves a wife, two teenage children, a sister and brother Randy, who took his greatest solo today when he spoke so honestly about Mike at the funeral. I know these guys for forty years. One of his last records was with Joe Lovano and myself in Saxophone Summit with his tune as the title track appropriately titled “Gathering of Spirits.” As well his last official gig was with that band at Birdland in March 2004. We were particularly close in the early days. Mike took over my first loft when I moved on and stayed there ten years with the same piano and continuing the same research and practice vibe. He and I were close mainly as a consequence of our love and respect for John Coltrane’s music. But more important than the music was the message that Trane left to all of us concerning humility, humanity and honesty. Music after all is in the final analysis just sound without emotion or feeling until the artist possesses the notes so the listener, if they care to and put the effort in, feels something. To move the listener, you have to bring something to the music that is inside you. Michael had plenty inside him and through music, he found a way to let people know what he was thinking and feeling. Besides inspiring so many saxophonists to pursue this deep musical tradition that we all love and respect, he personally helped many people involved in addictive behavior to find and cure themselves. And even at the end, he realized that though he wanted his disease to stay quiet, by asking for blood donors he was helping to save others, which is exactly what has happened. This is the essence of selflessness.
As Randy said in his eulogy, the passing of Alice Coltrane within the same twenty four hour period is significant on several levels, specifically in relation to Mike because of the Coltrane connection. It was the late Trane period that we (meaning Michael, Steve Grossman, Bob Berg, Randy, myself and others) were hooked on and tried to emulate in the early days. The fact that these two passings occurred during the IAJE convention in NewYork and became common knowledge in the last few hours of the weekend was in some ways fortuitous since such a large part of the community was by circumstance together.
The last person I saw as I was leaving the hotel was Roy Haynes. His final thought to me was exactly that, meaning this is the time for the community to pull together and keep the faith. We will do our best Sergeant Haynes.
Peace my brother,