Trey Anastasio Band Saxophonist James Casey Has Died
The talented musician and member of the Trey Anastasio Band was 40 years old.
The news of Casey’s death was confirmed by his representative and family in a post on social media. James died this morning surrounded by his wife and family. Read the full text of the statement below:
It is with profound grief and a broken heart that we confirm the passing of James Casey. He died peacefully in the early morning of August 28, 2023, surrounded by his wife and family.
James persevered through his colon cancer battle for two years, and it was the honor of his career to release solo music and perform during that time. James brought joy to everyone around him and his legacy will live on, both through his music and the advocacy work that’s become so integral to him.
It was so important to James to help others avoid his fate – to learn the importance of early colon cancer screenings, know your family history, and be an advocate for your own health. When detected early, colon cancer is almost always curable. He shared his diagnosis publicly and illuminated his ongoing battle to raise awareness and help others.
James was a remarkable human being, beloved for his wit, humility, kindness and generosity. He will be dearly missed.
James Casey was born in Washington D.C. His musical family relocated to Phoenix where he was raised. Casey began playing drums at age 3 and began playing saxophone at age 9.
He went on to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston where he pursued a degree in music business. While in Boston he began playing with Soulive and Lettuce. He also formed a band with Louis Cato, who is currently the bandleader of the house band for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
At Soulive’s 2012 Bowlive run at Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn, New York, Casey met trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick. Later that year, upon Hartswick’s suggestion, Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio asked Casey to join his solo band, solidifying a horn section with Hartswick and trombonist Natalie Cressman.
In an interview for The JamBase Podcast, Casey recalled the circumstances that led to him joining the Trey Anastasio Band.
“I was playing with Lettuce and Soulive in 2012 and we did Bowlive – a run of shows that Soulive does, or used to do, in New York at Brooklyn Bowl for two weeks.
“This particular one Jennifer [Hartswick] was one of the guests for two nights. I had no idea who Jennifer was, but she came and she sang and played and she didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know who she was. I was like, ‘Oh, wow, you, you sound great.’ She’s like, ‘You do too’ …
“Then later that year at Jazz Fest in New Orleans I saw her again. I was like – I was joking – I’m like, ‘Hey guys, this is the year of James getting all the gigs. So let’s get James all the gigs’ … and she’s like, ‘Actually, I was talking to somebody about you a while ago.’
“I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s what’s up.’ Didn’t hear anything about it.
“Then about in August, I was in Arizona writing an album and I was asleep. I get a text from Jen, she says, ‘Trey’s going to call you’ with a smiley face [emoji]. I didn’t know who Trey was. I was like, ‘OK.’ I was asleep [and] went back to sleep. Got a phone call from some unknown number I didn’t know. Didn’t answer it. Went back to sleep.
“Woke up, listened to the message and he’s like, ‘Hi this is Trey. [I’m in] this band called Phish and I want you to join my personal band.’
“I had no idea who they were. So I hit up Eric Krasno [of Soulive] actually and Adam Deitch [of Lettuce]. I was like, ‘Yo, some dude just called me named Trey’ and from their excitement I realized I had to say yes because they were way more excited than I’ve ever heard them be on the phone ever about anything.”
James Casey was diagnosed with colon cancer following an appearance with Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann’s Billy & The Kids at Red Rocks in July 2021. Casey had emergency surgery to remove a tumor and was hospitalized for over a week. He then initiated an intense chemotherapy treatment regimen.
Casey, who also sang and played keyboards with TAB, missed the Trey Anastasio Band’s 2021 Fall Tour and other shows while undergoing treatment. Casey documented his cancer journey in the short film Music As Medicine.
Casey released his debut EP A Little Something For Everyone, in December 2022. Proceeds from the holiday album went to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance and Eastern Virginia Medical School’s HOPES Clinic to fund colon cancer screenings for the uninsured.
Casey was working on his debut solo album, The Kaua’i Project, but had to push back its release. The album was inspired in part by his time spent on the Hawaiian island at the onset of the pandemic. Earlier this year he issued the singles, “New Bloom,” “E.J.B.M” and “Outside.”
Casey made two emotional appearances with TAB in July 2023, first during their encore at Baltimore’s Pier Six Pavilion when he came out to help sing “O-o-h Child.” Casey again came out during TAB’s encore in Asbury Park when helped sing “Over The Rainbow” and broke out his saxophone for “First Tube.” Casey played a three shows in late-July with Phil Lesh & Friends.
Along with the Trey Anastasio Band, Casey’s numerous recording credits include Phish, Lettuce, Chromeo, J.Cole, The Roots, Anderson .Paak, The Jonas Brothers, Dave Matthews Band, Sabrina Claudio, Chaka Khan, Wu-Tang, John Legend, Roy Hargrove, Soulive, Talib Kweli, Nigel Hall, Michael Kiwanuka, Melody Gardot, Shawn Mendes, 5th Harmony, Danger Mouse/Karen O, Maceo Parker, Carly Rae Jepsen, Leslie Odom Jr. and others.
Casey also regularly toured with pop star Meghan Trainor and was part of several Phil Lesh & Friends lineups. As a solo artist working out of New York City and Los Angeles, Casey also recorded under the name Animus Rexx.
Casey was an advocate for early colon cancer screening, particularly for black men who are at a higher risk.
“[Black men] are 40% more likely to get this particular type of cancer…so much so that being African American is considered a warning sign for it,” Casey wrote in 2021 when revealing his diagnosis. “If you’re 35+ please consider getting checked, and make sure to pay attention to your digestive health.”
Donations can be made to a GoFundMe campaign established to support James Casey. All of Team JamBase shares their condolences for Casey. James is survived by his wife Ayla Cobb Casey, mother Gina René Miles Casey, father Duane John Casey, sister Rachel Jean Cato and brother Stephen Duane Casey. The family has asked for donations to be made to the Nancy Langhorne Foundation and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance in lieu of flowers. Memorial services are in the works with details to be announced at a later date.