One-Armed sax player Neill Duncan dies after cancer battle


Neill Duncan, the inspirational sax player and musical educator who lost an arm to cancer and continued to play with a specially designed instrument, died Dec. 28 after a battle with illness.

Duncan is remembered as great musician, one who defied disability when, in 2012, he had his left arm amputated due to a rare, aggressive sarcoma.

With help from music industry charity Support Act, Duncan had a bespoke saxophone designed, he continued to play and compose, and inspired countless others around the world.

His journey was told in a 2016 episode of 7.30, and, that year, appeared alongside other physically impaired musicians in U.K. TV spot for the Paralympics.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” he told the ABC. “It’s been horrific, this happening, obviously. I still have a lot of pain, a lot of phantom pain. But it’s also been an absolute blessing, it’s taken me places I never dreamed of going.”

Born in 1957, the multi-instrumentalist and improvisational jazz artist was best known in Australia for his work with The Jews Brothers, Darth Vegas and The Three Handed Beat Bandits, and in New Zealand as a founding member of the Braille Collective, Primitive Art Group, Blue Bottom Stompers and The Spines.

“Neill was very passionate about the fact that music was a language that everyone can understand but not everyone can speak, and that instruments like his were essential for people with disability to release the music within them,” comments the late artist’s wife, Naomi Parry Duncan.

A statement from Support Act says the organisation is “deeply saddened” to learn of his death.

The former Wellington musician reportedly died at his home in Katoomba, New South Wales, just six months after his diagnosis with a virulent lymphoma.

At the time of his passing, Duncan was planning to record Phantom Tones, a record of compositions for his one-handed saxophone.

His one-handed tenor and one-handed soprano, made for him by Maarten Visser of FluteLab in Amsterdam, has been bequeathed to the One-Handed Musical Instrument Trust in Birmingham.

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