Trey Anastasio’s saxophonist James Casey passed away

Trey Anastasio saxophonist, James Casey died. (Source: Facebook)
Trey Anastasio saxophonist, James Casey cause of death. (Source: Facebook)


James Casey, a renowned saxophonist who worked with the Trey Anastasio Band, Meghan Trainor, Billy & The Kids, Phil Lesh, and numerous other artists, passed away at the age of 40.

He was a gifted musician with a devoted fan base who loved his distinctive tone and musical style. Many of his followers were shocked by his passing and left wondering how he passed away. To learn more about James Casey, including who he was, how he died, what caused his death, tributes to him, and much more, keep reading the article.

Who was James Casey?

James Casey was born in Washington D.C. He was raised in Phoenix after the relocation of his musical family. At the ages of 3 and 9, Casey started playing the drums and the saxophone, respectively.

He afterwards enrolled at Boston’s Berklee College of Music to seek a degree in music business. He started performing with Soulive and Lettuce while he was in Boston. Louis Cato, the current bandleader of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’s house band, and he also started a band.

Casey met trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick during Soulive’s 2012 Bowlive performance at Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn, New York. Later that year, Trey Anastasio, the guitarist for Phish, approached Hartswick with the idea of Casey joining his solo project, completing the horn section with Hartswick and trombonist Natalie Cressman.

Bands he worked with:

He was given the chance to work with the Trey Anastasio Band as a result of his 2012 performance with Lettuce and Soulive. 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 had to postpone the release of The Kauai Project, his debut solo album, which he was working on. He was on the Hawaiian island at the start of the pandemic, which served as some of the inspiration for the record. The singles “New Bloom,” “E.J.B.M,” and “Outside” were released earlier this year.

Live Performances:

In July 2023, Casey made two emotional appearances with TAB. The first time was during their encore performance at Baltimore’s Pier Six Pavilion, where he stepped out to join in on the singing of “O-o-h Child.” In Asbury Park, Casey reappeared for TAB’s encore, joining in on “Over The Rainbow” and playing his saxophone during “First Tube.” Phil Lesh & Friends and Casey performed three gigs in late July.

Along with performing on numerous Phil Lesh & Friends lineups, Casey frequently toured with pop artist Meghan Trainor. Casey also released music as Animus Rexx while operating as a solo artist out of Los Angeles and New York.

How did James Casey die? What was his cause of death?

Saxophonist for the Trey Anastasio Band James Casey lost his battle with colon cancer and died at the age of 40.

Casey’s family and representative posted on social media to confirm the news of his passing. In the presence of his wife and family, James passed away this morning.

Read the full 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 was a wonderful soul. His personality and spirit sparkled. He played with finesse, storm, soul, and lyricism. He had a strong sense of melody and was an expert reader of complex charts. His singing voice was lovely, and his tone was rich and welcoming.

In addition, Team Trey Anastasio expresses its sympathy for Casey on Facebook.

I’m heartbroken about the loss of our friend and bandmate James. My heart is with James’ mother and father, his beautiful wife Ayla, and with the rest of his amazing family.
James was a magnificent soul. His spirit and personality glowed. His playing was elegant, stormy, soulful and lyrical. He was a powerful and melodic improviser, and spot on when reading intricate charts. His tone was full and warm, his singing voice was beautiful. I loved harmonizing with James. His smile filled the room.
I’ll never forget the feeling of jousting with James on baritone sax and guitar. We would make eye contact and just go for it, diving into waves of sound together. Dark, scary, blues-filled jams. He was a force of nature. It felt like being in a tiny boat together in a huge storm in the middle of the ocean.
It’s impossible to describe the deep connection that James, Natalie, and Jen had as a horn section in TAB. It was a magical, once in a lifetime section. Deep bonds of musicianship and friendship.
James’s connection with Ayla was indescribable. She poured her complete soul into caring for James throughout every second of his battle with cancer. James talked about how much it meant to him. All of James’ friends and family will be forever grateful to Ayla. All of us in the band loved seeing the two of them together. You could feel the deep love they had for each other. My heart is with Ayla today. We love you Ayla.
We all especially loved the nights on tour when James’ incredible family would come to shows. I loved seeing them laughing together in catering, or at soundcheck. James was a kind, loving, talented, and caring person, and a beautiful friend. His family completed that picture. James will be missed by all of us who loved him.
James, you live in our hearts forever.

Everyone enjoyed singing along with James. His smile lit up the entire room. James was a lovely friend as well as a kind, loving, creative, and caring individual. Everyone who loved James will miss him.

Cancer diagnosis:

Following a performance with Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann’s Billy & The Kids at Red Rocks in July 2021, James Casey received a colon cancer diagnosis. After having an urgent surgery to remove a tumor, Casey spent almost a week in the hospital. He started a rigorous chemotherapy treatment plan after that.

While receiving treatment, Casey missed the Trey Anastasio Band’s 2021 Fall Tour as well as other performances. Casey also sang and played keyboards with TAB. In the short documentary Music As Medicine, Casey chronicled his battle with cancer.

Advocate for colon cancer awareness:

He was a vocal supporter of colon cancer education, especially among the more vulnerable Black community, which has higher mortality rates and is more likely to experience early-stage disease diagnosis.

To share the new song and talk about the value of understanding your family history and being tested early if you’re at elevated risk for colon cancer, Casey made an appearance on the Today Show in March 2023.

Olympus Corporation of the Americas provided funding for the production of the music video for the song “New Bloom,” which was released on March 21. It features other New York City artists who are living with and beyond cancer as a community in a visual story of hope. Each person featured in the video, which was directed by Brad Hasse, is now fighting cancer in their own unique, private, and intimate ways.

In 2022, Casey combined music with activism for the first time with the publication of his holiday EP, A Little Something For Everyone, which was hailed as one of the Best Songs of 2022 by the NPR crew. The limited vinyl pressings of the record helped the Colorectal Cancer Alliance and the Nancy Langhorne Foundation generate thousands of dollars for the cancer community.

The compilation album was created during the past two years as a result of a relatively coincidental series of circumstances. Even though Casey was an excellent multi-instrumentalist who traveled the world with many top performers, releasing his own music has never been a priority for him.

His diagnosis caused a sudden shift in that perception. In many respects, the terrible news from August 2021 served as an awakening. Casey made the decision to maximize his time for both himself and other people. For the first time, he started writing and recording music under his own name after letting go of all restrictions on his artistic career.


A GoFundMe account has been set up to help James Casey, and donations can be made there. In addition to his wife Ayla Cobb Casey, James is also survived by his parents Duane John Casey and Gina René Miles Casey, sister Rachel Jean Cato, and brother Stephen Duane Casey. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance and the Nancy Langhorne Foundation. Details about the planned memorial services will be released later.

Tributes to James Casey

Many people expressed their profound sympathies to his family and expressed how much they loved him. The news of this occurrence has upset his supporters and fans.

Paul Levine wrote: “So sad to share the news that James Casey has passed. James was such a wonderful guy and an immensely talented musician. I remember meeting James and working with him at Bear Creek when he came with Lettuce for the first time. We did a bunch of other shows and festivals together and James became a big part of the extended Suwannee family. His musical partnership and friendship with Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman as part of the Trey Anastasio Band horns was so inspiring. I am thankful to have called James a friend and I will miss him very much. Much love to his wife Ayla and his friends and family.”

Conrad Sullivan wrote: “I’m very sad this afternoon. I just got up and I found out that James Casey (sax with Trey Anastasio Band and with Billy & The Kids) passed away early this morning after a long battle with colon cancer. He was a remarkable musician and human. RIP James!”

James was a gifted and well-respected musician, and music fans all across the world continue to value and enjoy his work. His recordings and the recollections of those who knew him continue to carry on his legacy.

Visit our website often to read further articles of the same genre, and don’t forget to leave supportive comments for James Casey’s beloved family as they navigate this difficult period.


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