June 26, 1960 – Feb 20, 1997 Port Arthur, TX
Zachary Breaux began playing clarinet and guitar as a child. Inspired by jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie and Wes Montgomery, he played in local jazz bands while attending Lincoln High School. After graduation, Breaux went on to study Music Composition at North Texas State University.
At North Texas, Breaux performed with the One O'clock Band while studying with mentor Donald Byrd. He left Texas in the late 1980s for New York City, performing as a sideman for musicians such as Ronnie Laws and Roy Ayers. Breaux received notice as a musician in his own right in 1982 when he substituted for a sick Ayers at a gig. By 1993, Zachary had moved out on his own, developing his unique style of jazz.
Breaux tempered a southern-style blues tradition with a combination of funk and hip-hop. One critic described Breaux as playing with a bluesy style, with lots of warmth while using an economy of notes. In the short time before his death, Breaux produced three CDs in which he composed, arranged, and performed virtually all of the music without accompaniment. His efforts included "Groovin," "Laidback," and "Uptown Groove," which reached #14 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart and featuring an appearance by fellow Port Arthuran, Ted Dunbar. Breaux toured extensively throughout the world and made an appearance in the musical documentary Jazzmatazz.
His character was displayed in 1988 when he saved a man from drowning in a riptide on the coast of Italy. Tragically, in 1997, at the peak of his career, he died attempting a similar rescue while on vacation with his family in Miami. He was trying to save the life of an elderly woman who had been caught in a powerful riptide. Both Breaux and the women died. He has been posthumously honored for his musical contributions by such entities as the Texas State House of Representatives and Atlanta's mayor.
He was inducted into the Music Hall of Fame at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in 1997.