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Warne Marsh Quartet: Ne Plus Ultra

Nic Jones By

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The passing of time has done nothing to reduce the singularity of Warne Marsh's art, and this set, recorded at the end of the 1960s, is an excellent working definition. Marsh was always a musician for whom points of reference in terms of influences were never helpful. To say, for example, that he shared a certain afinity with Lester Young is to overlook the wholesale differences in their musical worlds.

The same can be said for any reliance Marsh might have had on licks or certain phrases. Sheer depth of invention usurped any such need quite early on in his career. Similarly, never has a saxophonist employed tonal nuance as an end in itself in the way that he did. This is apparent here on "317 E. 32nd," an example of how one of Lennie Tristano's lines always provided Marsh with maximum stimulation.

The Tristano ideal of the quietly ticking rhythm section is not present on Ne Plus Ultra, however, and the music is all the better for it. Drummer John Tirabasso is an interventionist when the time is right and a master of touch when that's required, and bassist Dave Parlato prompts as much as he accompanies. This makes for what might be called whole group music, despite the attention that the saxophones of Marsh and Gary Foster perhaps inevitably command.

This quality ensures that the listener's attention doesn't wander during the fifteen minutes of "Touch And Go," where the music is fashioned in the moment and the players pay close attention to the contributions of the others, fashioning their own accordingly.

There were countless things that Warne Marsh wasn't as a musician. He wasn't a bopper anymore than he was an adherent of any particular school once he'd reached maturity, and while there will always be those for whom his music is too cerebral, the point seems more than a little specious when he could put out music as endlessly fascinating as this.

Track Listing: You Stepped Out Of A Dream; Lennie

Personnel: Warne Marsh: tenor saxophone; Gary Foster: alto saxophone; Dave Parlato: bass; John Tirabasso: drums.

Title: Ne Plus Ultra | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Hat Hut Records

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