Arthur Blythe, born in Los Angeles, California, on July 5, 1940, was a remarkable American jazz alto saxophonist, composer, and bandleader. With his diverse and innovative approach to the saxophone, Blythe was a significant figure in the jazz scene, skillfully navigating between different styles and genres.
Blythe’s interest in music started at a young age. He began playing the clarinet, but after hearing Charlie Parker’s recordings, he was inspired to switch to the alto saxophone. In the 1960s, he moved to San Diego, where he became involved in the local jazz scene and developed his unique sound by drawing from various musical styles, including rhythm and blues, Latin, and avant-garde jazz.
In 1974, Blythe returned to Los Angeles and joined the groundbreaking collective known as the Underground Musicians and Artists Association (UGMAA), where he collaborated with innovative musicians such as David Murray and James Newton. This association played a significant role in shaping his musical vision and helped him establish his reputation as a forward-thinking musician.
Blythe’s career took off in the late 1970s when he moved to New York City. He signed with Columbia Records and released a series of critically acclaimed albums, including “Lenox Avenue Breakdown” (1979), which is considered one of the finest jazz albums of the era. During this time, he formed his own band, The Arthur Blythe Group, which showcased his distinctive compositional style and improvisational skills.
Throughout his career, Blythe collaborated with numerous prominent musicians, such as Jack DeJohnette, Gil Evans, and McCoy Tyner. His versatility and openness to different musical styles allowed him to work with various ensembles, ranging from big bands to smaller combos. Blythe’s innovative approach to the alto saxophone and his ability to blend diverse influences made him a highly respected figure in the world of jazz.
In 2005, Blythe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which eventually led to his retirement from performing. Despite his health challenges, he continued to inspire fellow musicians and remained an influential figure in the jazz community. Arthur Blythe passed away on March 27, 2017, at the age of 76.
Throughout his life, Blythe pushed the boundaries of jazz, leaving a lasting impact on the genre. His unique sound and innovative approach to the alto saxophone continue to inspire generations of musicians and jazz enthusiasts alike.
Last updated 3/18/2023.