Warne Marsh All Music

Saxophonist Warne Marsh is known as an improviser’s improviser. His ability to be entirely in the moment, his fearless pursuit of where a melodic idea may take him, regardless of the sometimes tortuous convolutions this pursuit may demand of him, his utter clarity, his lack of reliance on clichés and his serpentine phrasing are some of the qualities that have made him a jazz legend. On All Music, recorded in 1976 and newly released by Chicago indie Nessa Records, Marsh is in dazzling form, and his band-mates — Lou Levy on piano, Fred Atwood on bass and Jake Hanna on drums — are up to the challenge of matching the leader’s intimidating skills. As Marsh was a disciple of Lennie Tristano, it’s fitting that one of the guru’s tunes, "317 E. 32nd,” and fellow student Lee Konitz’s "Subconscious-Lee” serve as vehicles for Marsh’s staggering ability to unwind flowing lines with a rhythmic freedom that would make most free-jazzers green with envy. His ingenious way of being able to play on the beat in between the beats is demonstrated on his own "I Have a Good One for You” and the aggressive "Background Music,” and pianist Levy is right with him, both as an accompanist and a soloist in the Bud Powell mode. Drummer Hanna is crisp and propulsive throughout although his kit sounds muffled and under-recorded. While Marsh is at his fiery best on Levy’s "Lunarcy,” the "I” word (intonation) has to be mentioned. Like his colleague Konitz, Marsh’s tuning is inconsistent, and, for some listeners, irritating. His sound is an acquired taste, too; neither strong nor hard, it’s wispy and dry. That said, All Music is an excellent example of Warne Marsh’s creative spirit. Perhaps a bit dated and not for everyone, this is one version of improvisation at its best. (Nessa)