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Warne Marsh (1927-1987), Influential Jazz Tenor Saxophonist from Los Angeles


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It's a shame that the names Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz are not well known.  Lennie was a pianist who was Warne's and Lee's mentor and teacher.  His accolytes are numerous.  You hear his influence in musicians of the time and, wonderfully, some of today's young jazz players who are looking at a way past all the technical excellence now present in highly schooled players who can do anything on their instrument and are now searching for something to say.

Lennie Tristano's school of so called "cool" jazz didn't believe in fire for fire's sake, there was no decoration, no attempt to impress.  Just a passionate dedication the music itself, to its basic building blocks of harmony and line.  It was all about the raw product.

One of my great pleasures was the time I spent learning jazz improvisation from Warne Marsh. I'd ravel to his home in Pasadena (or was it Altadena) and have an hour of amazing instruction. We might spend an hour of my just repeating a simple 12 bar blues time after time exploring the harmonics. Sometimes Warne would blow, sometimes he would pay a few notes at the piano. But it was an hour of intense concentration on a single idea. 

For a while my lessons would be scheduled after Warne's own practice time. I started coming early and standing outside so I could hear him playing to a metronome. 

Do yourself a favor and listen to the Video ("Lennie's Pennies") on this post. That's Warne on tenor. No one ever sounds like him, played like him, or, in my opinion, got to the essence ofthe music like him. 

More Warne Marsh: An Improvised Life. Listen to Lee Konitz and Warne playing together, one shared musical mind with such different expressions yet a unique sound when they played the melodies together, a single voice.

Rec'd in person at The Half Note, 06 JUN 1964: Lee Konitz as/ Warne Marsh ts/ Lennie Tristano p/ Sonny Dallas b/ Nick Stabulas d [band members from credits rolled at the end] 1. Subconscious Lee (Lee Konitz) - almost 6 min 2. @ 317 East 32nd Street (Lennie Tristano; Out of Nowhere changes) - almost 10 min 3. Background Music (Warne Marsh) - almost 8 mins :I:

More modern Warne

Warne from the time I studied with him

Warne and Art Pepper

Warne and Lennie on Improvisation

Wow! This is a clasic Lennie Tristano School Quintet

Warne is gone now, and to many he is unknown. To some, he is a legendary name. To those lucky enough to hear him, he was a revelation. To me he was a mentor who really instilled a love of music and the flowing of ideas in music that has been with me for 40 years. 

Thanks to Warne and to the people who are trying to keep him memory alive and to help him gain his rightful place in jazz history.  Those hours in his house, his mind and his music are such an important part of who I am.  

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Just saw this post and was reminded Warne's son is trying to make a film about Warne.  They have a Facebook Page and are using a crowdsourcing site to try and fund it.  Please do yourself a favor and click on some of the links above to hear one of the most individualistic musicians ever.

Or click here for Warne and one of his students, Susan Chen, just tenor and piano. You don't know what love is. Not a isplaced note, never any histrionics, just pure music from both.

"An Improvised Life" Facebook page.

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Yep. He played a wild solo, attested to by Joe Lopes who was semi managing Warne in preparation for what would have been his most successful European tour based on advanced sales/bookings. Joe said he did his solo and was sitting down on a bar stool on stage. Joe turned to look at the next soloist and looked back and Warne was nowhere to be seen. Joe at first thought Warne was getting a drink or maybe looking for something on the floor but when he looked carefully, Warne was on the floor, dead. 

He was diabetic an dhaving issues of control. He had been stopped days before by the LAPD for drunk driving hen he was hypoglycemic and someone aid so or he would have died then. He was trying to make it to Europe so he could leave his wife and kids much better off but it was not to be. 

Warne amazes me more and more as I go back and listen to him. 

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