Cultural Percussionist

Arthur Blythe Day

Arthur Murray Blythe (July 5, 1940 – March 27, 2017) was an American jazz alto saxophonist and composer. He was described by critic Chris Kelsey as displaying “one of the most easily recognizable alto sax sounds in jazz, big and round, with a fast, wide vibrato and an aggressive, precise manner of phrasing” and furthermore as straddling the avant garde and traditionalist jazz, often with bands featuring unusual instrumentation.

Born in Los Angeles, Blythe lived in San Diego, returning to Los Angeles when he was 19 years old. He took up the alto saxophone at the age of nine, playing R&B until his mid-teens when he discovered jazz. In the mid-1960s, Blythe was part of The Underground Musicians and Artists Association (UGMAA), founded by Horace Tapscott, on whose 1969 The Giant Is Awakened he made his recording debut.

After moving to New York in the mid-70s, Blythe worked as a security guard before being offered a place as sideman for Chico Hamilton (1975–77). He subsequently played with Gil Evans‘ Orchestra (1976–78), Lester Bowie (1978), Jack DeJohnette (1979) and McCoy Tyner (also 1979). Blythe’s group – John Hicks, Fred Hopkins and Steve McCall (drummer) – played Carnegie Hall and the Village Vanguard in 1979.

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