Last Friday, I did something a little different — I went to a Jefferson Center show, but just to listen, not to review. Pretty much every time I have walked in that building, I have written a review. But for a variety of reasons, including the deadline-busting length of the show, I thought this would be a nice one to simply experience. And I was glad I did.
The event was “More To Live For: An Evening Inspired by the Life of Michael Brecker.” It featured three things — a showing of the documentary “More To Live For,” in which a crew follows Brecker and two other men who needed bone marrow transplants for leukemia treatment. It is awfully hard for some folks to find a match, and that was certainly the case in the documentary. Brecker did not survive. It was depressing in a lot of stretches, but ultimately uplifting.
Brecker’s widow, Susan Brecker, and James Chippendale — her co-producer for the doc and one of the leukeumia victims it profiled — stepped onstage to speak for a few minutes after the documentary. There would be a break before the night’s big attraction (imo), a concert from saxophonist Branford Marsalis and pianist Joey Calderazzo — and Brecker and Chippendale encouraged the audience to go out in the atrium to have cheek swabs taken for the International Bone Marrow Registry.
Of the 600 who came out that night, 273 people submitted cheek swabs for the database, according to Jefferson Center’s Jeremy Butterfield. Not horrible, Roanoke.
The Marsalis/Calderazzo duo was what I had been waiting for, having not seen either of them live. Both men were in top form that night, and I left feeling good about the high level of open-eared improvisation and seamless dynamics those cats shared.
Given my druthers on a Friday night, I might rather have done with just the music and not the documentary, as it was pretty heavy for the most part. But it’s a great cause, and Susan Brecker is a great ambassador for her husband’s legacy.
In fact, matching music with a cause is one of the best things people do with music. Good on Jefferson Center for putting together shows like that.
On a final note, it wasn’t the only concert last weekend that included an altruistic element. A dollar from the sale of each ticket to Saturday’s Carrie Underwood show went to the Red Cross, for storm relief.