James Casey Dies at 40, His Cause of Death Explained

Los Angeles, CA – James Casey, acclaimed saxophonist and keyboardist known for playing with bands like Trey Anastasio Band (TAB), Phish, and Lettuce, has died at the age of 40. Casey passed away after a battle with colon cancer, according to statements from his family and musical collaborators.

A representative for Casey’s family shared that the talented musician died peacefully on August 28, 2023 surrounded by loved ones. His wife Ayla Cobb Casey and mother Gina René Miles Casey were by his side at the end after a brave fight against the cancer.

Casey first revealed his stage 3 colon cancer diagnosis in 2021 after undergoing emergency surgery to remove a tumor. Despite intense chemotherapy treatment, the cancer ultimately claimed his life just over a year later.

The musical community is mourning the enormous loss of Casey’s immense talent and spiritual presence. Fellow artists who played with Casey over the years are sharing memories and offering condolences.

Cancer Diagnosis Came as Surprise in 2021

James Casey’s colon cancer diagnosis came as a shock in 2021 at just 39 years old. He first noticed symptoms after a July show in Colorado with Bill Kreutzmann’s band Billy & The Kids.

The saxophonist underwent emergency surgery to remove a large tumor from his colon. Doctors diagnosed stage 3 colorectal cancer, meaning the disease had spread to nearby lymph nodes but not yet to other organs.

Casey spent over a week recovering in the hospital before beginning chemotherapy treatment. He documented his cancer battle in a short film titled “Music As Medicine.”

The intense chemo sessions forced him to withdraw from tours with Trey Anastasio Band and other groups in 2021 and early 2022. But Casey made inspiring returns to the stage when his health allowed.

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Moving Performances in 2022 Defined His Courage

Casey’s brave performances with Trey Anastasio Band in summer 2022 highlighted his incredible courage and passion.

In July, he made a surprise appearance at TAB shows in Baltimore and Asbury Park. The crowd roared as Casey emerged to help sing soulful covers “O-o-h Child” and “Over the Rainbow.”

His masterful saxophone playing on the Phish song “First Tube” brought fans to tears, recognizing the significance of Casey’s return amid his health struggles.

Those two shows would be Casey’s last with TAB, the band led by Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio. But the moving performances demonstrated his dedication to the craft and joy of playing live – even while battling cancer.

Released Uplifting Music Amid Illness

While undergoing treatment in 2022, Casey continued creating and releasing music that embodied his spirit.

In December, he put out a holiday-themed EP titled “A Little Something For Everyone” that included songs like “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” Sales benefited colorectal cancer charities.

Earlier in 2022, he also shared singles “New Bloom,” “E.J.B.M,” and “Outside” from his solo album “The Kaua’i Project” – named after the Hawaiian island where he found inspiration.

Casey had to delay the full album release due to his cancer fight. But the songs he did share radiated positivity and light despite his health struggles. The music served as both comfort and medicine during dark times.

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Advocated for Early Colon Cancer Screening

After his diagnosis, Casey became a vocal advocate for early colon cancer screening and awareness.

He noted increased risks for Black men and urged those 35+ to get screened. Casey also promoted paying attention to digestive health and not ignoring warning signs.

On social media, he provided updates throughout his treatment to raise awareness and inspire others battling the disease. Casey hoped his transparency would motivate lifesaving screenings.

His advocacy work even continued posthumously. In February 2023, sales of his song “Outside” were donated to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

Cutting-Edge Musical Collaborations Defined Career

Beyond his work with TAB and Phish, Casey was known for genre-spanning musical collaborations that highlighted his creativity and versatility.

The saxophonist recorded and toured with artists across rock, funk, hip-hop, pop, and jazz. His credits included The Roots, Anderson Paak, The Jonas Brothers, J. Cole, Lettuce, and Chromeo among many others.

In addition to saxophone, Casey was a skilled keyboardist, producer, and songwriter. He could fluidly cross musical worlds and enhance any live performance or studio track.

His eclectic tastes were apparent in his solo work as well. Under the moniker Animus Rexx, Casey blended jazz fusion, funk, and soul but always stayed true to his own artistic vision.

That bold creative spirit earned Casey widespread admiration from fellow musicians and fans across genres. His musical legacy is a lasting testament to his exceptional talent.

Reaction from Music Community Honors Casey’s Legacy

As news of Casey’s death spread online, an outpouring of memories and reactions highlighted his widespread impact.

Bandmates, friends, and artists Casey collaborated with shared heartfelt tributes. Many noted his musical brilliance was matched only by his kindness and generosity of spirit.

Jonas Brothers member Nick Jonas called Casey “an incredible talent and even better human.” Saxophonist Kamasi Washington said he lit up every stage, describing him as “one of the most soulful and thoughtful musicians I knew.”

Tara Stein a friend of James Shared a sad Post on Facebook by writing:-

Beyond devastated to hear about the untimely loss of my dear friend James Casey . He has been a special friend for over 15 years. He played at my son’s bar mitzvah and shared the dinner table many times with me and my family. On the sax, he’s blown away the music world for as long as I can remember. He will be sorely missed. Love you J.C. I’m glad the suffering is over. Rest in peace my sweet friend.

Evan Schultz Shared a Tribute Post for James Casey by writing:-

I think we all have those public figures, who, when they die, we are deeply affected by their passing. Despite not ever knowing them personally or even ever having a conversation with them, something about their lives, their gifts, or their talents, moved us deeply. I felt that way this afternoon after reading of the death of James Casey. A name probably not known to most, James was the saxophone player for one of my favorite bands, the Trey Anastasio Band. He was an incredible young talent and sadly lost his life to a prolonged illness today. I loved dancing to his saxophone grooves and watching him play off Trey and the other members of the band.

After a great show I’d go home and play the recording of some of his riffs for Koby to inspire him and his own saxophone playing. I’d say, “if you keep practicing sax this is how you could sound one day!”

Thank you for the beautiful music, rest in peace James.

Lettuce guitarist Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff reminisced about their bond forged through music. He said Casey “taught me that darkness can be transformed to create beauty.”

Phish bassist Mike Gordon simply shared Casey was “a great musician and a great guy.” Others like bassist Thundercat and singer Tony Visconti also posted memorials.

The heartfelt words emphasized Casey’s profound impact as both an artist and person. Though his life was tragically cut short, his vibrant spirit lives on through an unmatched musical legacy.

Family Asks for Donations to Cancer Charities

James Casey is survived by his wife Ayla, mother Gina, father Duane, sister Rachel, and brother Stephen. Instead of flowers, his family has requested donations be made to colorectal cancer charities.

Specifically, they asked well-wishers contribute to the Nancy Langhorne Foundation and Colorectal Cancer Alliance. A GoFundMe also benefits Casey’s memorial fund.

In lieu of a traditional funeral, his family is planning public memorial services in both Los Angeles and New York City. Details are forthcoming for those wishing to honor Casey’s life and legacy.

The musical world lost a towering talent and beautiful soul with James Casey’s passing after a colon cancer battle. But his enduring spirit and peerless artistry will live on for generations to come. Casey’s memory will inspire others to pursue their passions fully – and to never ignore the call for cancer screenings.

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