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Wide Open Jazz and Beyond

Warne Marsh

By Published: May 30, 2006
Warne stayed with Tristano for three years and like Lennie, Warne went on to become a teacher, as there just wasn't enough performing gigs to pay the bills. It was very sad for me to find out that this great musical genius was forced into manual labor as a swimming pool cleaner to survive. To me this is exactly what happens in a country that doesn't put any value on creativity and talent in the arts. And of course we all know great musicians or artists who are stuck in some dumb job just to pay the bills that should be out in public sharing their talents with the world. Anyway Warne just kept on playing when he could, working occasionally with Tristano or Konitz and with a group called Supersax that arranged Bird solos for an ensemble of saxophonists. He also toured Europe once in a while and had the occasional gig at the Village Vanguard but he never was given the credit he deserved as one of the most unique improvising saxophone players in the history of jazz.

Fortunately there are a number of recordings available for you to hear how great Warne was. Check out the recordings he did with Tristano of course but also look for a great recording called Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz Live at Club Montmartre (1975) on the Storyville label or one he did for Criss Cross entitled Star Highs (1982) with Hank Jones or another fantastic one he recorded with pianist Bill Evans on Fantasy called Cross Currents (1977). A recent reissue shows Warne in top form in 1957 on the VSOP label with the title Music For Prancing and another great one on Criss Cross with Chet Baker called Blues For a Reason (1984).

Warne Marsh died in 1987 on stage at Dante's a club in L.A. while playing one of his favorite standards Out Of Nowhere. I feel very fortunate to have gotten a chance to play with Warne and will always remember the many times we got together and experimented with his incredible musical ideas. I hope those of you out there that haven't heard of him will go out and check out some of his recordings. Thanks and see you next month.

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