ARTHUR BLYTHE-THE COLUMBIA YEARS.
dereksmusicblog ♦ April 7, 2019 ♦ Leave a comment
Arthur Blythe-The Columbia Years.
Nowadays, prodigy is one of the most overused words in the English language, and all too often it’s used to describe young children who show a modicum of talent in sport and music. Sadly, and all too often, those that were described as a prodigy never fulfil their supposed potential. The young ball player ends up parking cars, and the prodigious violinist ends his days pumping gas. However, there are some prodigies who fulfil their potential, including alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe.
He was born in Los Angeles on July 5th 1940, and when he was nine, Arthur Blythe discovered the alto saxophone. Soon, he was taking lessons with a family friend and saxophonist Junior Foster. He taught Arthur Blythe, and watched as he progressed from elementary school orchestra to the marching band. Within a few years, Arthur Blythe’s life would change when he discovered jazz in his mid-teens. This was a game-changer for Arthur Blythe.
Up until then, Arthur Blythe loved R&B music. That had been his music. This changed when Arthur Blythe discovered jazz. By then, Arthur Blythe was being taught by Kirkland Bradford, who had played in Jimmie Lunceford’s swing band. However, it wasn’t swing that Arthur Blythe gravitated towards.
Instead, it was the music of Thelonius Monk and then John Coltrane. It was only later, that Arthur Blythe discovered one of the greatest jazz saxophonists…Charlie Parker. By then, Arthur Blythe lived and breathed jazz. At last, he had discovered his purpose in life, playing jazz saxophone.
The Early Years.
By the mid-sixties, Arthur Blythe went in search of like-minded musicians. He found them at The Underground Musicians and Artists Association, which had been founded by pianist and composer Horace Tapscott. This was the perfect environment for an up-and-coming musician like Arthur Blythe. Each day, he was surrounded by innovative and influential musicians, and this led to him making his recording debut.
Horace Tapscott was looking for someone to play alto saxophone on his 1969 debut album and first album as bandleader, The Giant Is Awakened.Having gotten to know Arthur Blythe over the last few years, his friend from the Underground Musicians and Artists Association got the call. He was officially a member of the Horace Tapscott Quintet.
The Giant Is Awakened.
With Arthur Blythe onboard, the Horace Tapscott Quintet headed to the studio to meet producer Bob Thiele. He also owned Flying Dutchman Productions, the label the Quintet were signed to. This was an exciting time for everyone involved. Especially Arthur Blythe, who was making his recording debut; and Horace Tapscott who thought he was going to allowed to help mix the album. Before that, the album had to be recorded.
Recording took place between the 1st and 3rd of April 1969. Over the three days, the Quintet recorded four Horace Tapscott compositions with producer Bob Thiele. The veteran producer had worked with some of the biggest names in jazz, and was the perfect person to coax and cajole the best performance from the nascent Quintet. He certainly brought out the best in Arthur Blythe, whose performances were being committed to tape for the first time. Once the sessions were over, it should’ve been a time to celebrate.
Alas, the celebrations were cut short, when it became clear that Horace Tapscott wasn’t going to be involved in mixing of The Giant Is Awakened. Horace Tapscott wasn’t best pleased, and for a musician that had always been suspicious of the music industry this was the last straw. He turned his back on the recording industry for ten years. This was ironic.
When The Giant Is Awakened was released later in 1969, it was to widespread critical acclaim. Sadly the Horace Tapscott Quintet would never released another album. However, Arthur Blythe had enjoyed recording The Giant Is Awakened, and was keen to repeat the experience.
Three years later, in 1972, Arthur Blythe returned to the studio. This time, it was with Julius Hemphill on his album Coon Bid’ness. It was an ambitious and innovative album where avant-garde and jazz combine. When it was released later in 1972, it was to critical acclaim. For the second time, Arthur Blythe had played an important part in the success of an album.
In 1974, two became three when Arthur Blythe joined Azar Lawrence for the recording of what was, a truly groundbreaking album of spiritual jazz, Bridge Into The New Age. Arthur Blythe didn’t seem of place alongside Azar Lawrence, Woody Shaw and Hadley Caliman. Despite this, Arthur Blythe’s career took an unexpected twist.
Just like many jazz musicians, Arthur Blythe had headed to New York, which was then, regarded as the American jazz capital.By the mix-seventies, was struggling to make a career out of music. Competition was fierce, and Arthur Blythe had no option but to take a job as a security guard. This was only temporary. Fortunately, he was soon hired by avant-garde vocalist Lean Thomas.
He was establishing a reputation as a leading light of avant-garde scene. Leon Thomas had also recently worked with a man from Arthur Blythe’s past, Bob Thiele. Their paths would cross again in the future. Meanwhile, Arthur Blythe and joined Leon Thomas’ band, and that was where he was ‘spotted’ by one of the biggest names in jazz,..Chico Hamilton.
He played on Chico Hamilton’s 1975 album for Blue Note, Peregrinations, and the 1976 followup Chico Hamilton and The Players. Right through to 1977, Arthur Blythe played alongside Chico Hamilton. Right up until Arthur Blythe’s solo career began in 1977, his talents were constantly in demand and saw
Before that, Gil Evans Orchestra were looking for an alto saxophonist in 1976. Arthur Blythe answered the call, and would spend several years working with the Gil Evans Orchestra. When he was neither working with Chico Hamilton nor the Gil Evans Orchestra, worked with a variety of jazz musicians.
This included recording an album with Woody Shaw in 1977, This was The Iron Men, which featured Anthony Braxton. However, The Iron Men wasn’t released until 1980. By then, Arthur Blythe had embarked upon a solo career.
Arthur Blythe solo career began in early 1977, when having signed to the indie label India Navigation, he recorded his debut album The Grip on February 26, 1977. Unlike most debut albums, The Grip was a live album which was recorded at the Brook, in New York.
The Grip was an ambitious and adventurous album of free jazz. That was no surprise, as Arthur Blythe had put together a band that featured some of the most creative, free spirits on the New York jazz scene. Drummer Steve Reid provided the heartbeat, while Bob Stewart on tuba, trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, cellist Abdul Wadud and percussionist Muhamad Abdullah joined Arthur Blythe. They were responsible for a debut album that won over critics.
When The Grip was released later in 1977, praise and plaudits accompanied the release of a truly groundbreaking album. Arthur Blythe’s band went further than any of his contemporaries. Critics were enthralled by such ambitious and adventurous album. What was all the more remarkable was that it was a live album. There were no second chances. That was the case with the other live album recorded on 26th February 1977.
The same night that The Grip was recorded at The Brook, the tapes were left running and a second live album was recorded, Metamorphosis. It was also released later in 1977, and just like The Grip, Metamorphosis, was another album that found favour with critics. They were impressed by Arthur Blythe’s distinctive and unique sound, as he and his band of musical free spirits took the listener on an another musical adventure. For critics and the record buyers who discovered Metamorphosis, it was a tantalising taste of what was to come from Arthur Blythe.
Despite having recorded and released two live albums early in 1977, Arthur Blythe wasn’t willing to rest on his laurels. Instead, he featured on Synthesis’ debut album Six By Six. Then he signed a contract with the Adelphi label, and headed into the studio in December 1977.
For his first studio album, Arthur Blythe four new compositions, They would be recorded by a trio. This featured Bob Stewart on tuba and Ahkmed Abdullah on congas. Sitting atop the arrangement was the unmistakable sound of Arthur Blythe’s alto saxophone. With the four compositions recorded, Bush Baby was released in 1978.
Before the release of Bush Baby, critics had their say on the album. Just like his two live albums, critics remarked upon Arthur Blythe’s adventurous spirit. They also remarked that already, Arthur Blythe was a versatile musician. He could seamlessly switch between playing soulfully, to playing with an unbridled intensity. Critics were won over by Bush Baby which was released in early 1978. Equally impressed by Arthur Blythe, were Columbia Records, who signed him in 1987. This was the start of a new era.
In The Tradition.
Having signed to Columbia Records, Arthur Blythe got the opportunity to renew his acquaintance with producer Bob Thiele. He was drafted in to produce Arthur Blythe’s Columbia Records’ debut, In The Tradition.
For In The Tradition, Arthur Blythe composed Break Tune and Hip Dripper. The rest of the tracks were cover versions, which took Arthur Blythe back to his teenage years. This included Fats Wallers’ Jitterbug Waltz which had been a favourite when R&B was Arthur Blythe’s passion. The other songs included a cover of Duke Ellington’s In A Sentimental Mood, and Caravan, which the Duke penned with Irving Mills and Juan Tizol. Fittingly, the album closer was Naima, which was written by John Coltrane who was one of the artists who inspired Arthur Blythe. These six tracks were recorded at Mediasound Studios, in New York.
At Mediasound Studios, the free spirits that played on Arthur Blythe’s first three albums were absent. Replacing them, were a rhythm section of drummer Steve McCall and bassist Fred Hopkins. Completing Arthur Blythe’s quartet were pianist Stanley Cowell. Once In The Tradition was complete, Bob Thiele didn’t make the same mistake twice.
Not only did Bob Thiele co-produce In The Tradition with Arthur Blythe, but he allowed him play a part in the mixing of the album. He must have remembered the confusion surrounding the Horace Tapscott Qunintet’s The Giant Is Awakened. So, Arthur Blythe mixed In The Tradition with Doug Epstein. Then later in 1978, Arthur Blythe’s Columbia debut was released.
Critics were in for a surprise when they heard In The Tradition. This time, there were neither sonic experiments, nor musical adventures from Arthur Blythe. Instead, as the title suggested, the album had a much more traditional sound. The quartet embraced and enjoyed this return to a more traditional sound. It allowed the quartet to showcase their considerable skills. This was something critics remarked upon, praising and lauding the standard of musicianship on display on In The Tradition.It was to critical acclaim later in 1977.
The only disappointment was that In The Tradition didn’t chart in the US Billboard 200. However, it found an audience within the jazz community, who wondered what direction Arthur Blythe was heading next?
Lenox Avenue Breakdown.
Arthur Blythe returned to Mediasound Studios later in 1978, with four new compositions. They would become Lenox Avenue Breakdown, which featured an expanded lineup of Arthur Blythe’s band.
This time around, Arthur Blythe was working with a septet, which featured some top jazz musicians. The rhythm section alone featured drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist Cecil McBee and guitarist James Blood Ulmer. They were augmented by the familiar face of Bob Stewart on tuba, flautist James Newton and percussionist Guilherme Franco. Producing this all-star lineup, was a man used to big occasions, Bob Thiele. He coaxed and cajoled a masterful performance out of the septet. It was worth every ounce of effort and energy that had been expounded. After this, it was over to Arthur Blythe to mix Lenox Avenue Breakdown. Then Arthur Blythe’s Magus Opus was almost ready for release.
Before that, critics had their say on Lenox Avenue Breakdown. Critics thought the band had been together for years. However, they were a new band, and had been together just a week when Bob Thiele pressed play. He watched as the septet delivered a masterful performance on an album of innovative and influential contemporary jazz.
Bob Stewart the longest-serving member of Arthur Blythe’s band, played an important part on Lenox Avenue Breakdown. Especially on the title-track, a thirteen minute epic, where he delivered what’s considered one of the finest tuba solos in modern jazz. That’s just one reason why Lenox Avenue Breakdown is the album’s centrepiece. However, the new band all play their part on album that critics exhausted superlatives on.
It was variously hailed a masterpiece and a modern classic. In a later review, The Penguin Guide To Jazz said: “one of the lost masterpieces of modern jazz.” Sadly, that was the case.
When Lenox Avenue Breakdown was released in 1979, the album never troubled the US Billboard 200. Even in the US Billboard Jazz Albums Charts, Lenox Avenue Breakdown reached just thirty-five. Arthur Blythe’s Magnus Opus, was indeed: “one of the lost masterpieces of modern jazz.”
Having spent 1979 and early 1980 working as a sideman, this allowed Arthur Blythe to get over the commercial failure of Lenox Avenue Breakdown. Arthur Blythe must have known it was the best album of his career. Critics had called it a masterpiece and a classic. Now he had it all to do again, in the hope that commercial success wouldn’t continue to elude him. So Arthur Blythe returned to the studio in April 1980.
When recording Illusions began, the changes had been rung, Rather than Mediasound Studios, Illusions was being recorded at CBS Recording Studios, New York. Producing the album, was Arthur Blythe and Jim Fishel. There was no sign of Bob Thiele, nor the septet that featured on Lenox Avenue Breakdown.
While it was still a septet that featured on Illusions, this time there were several new faces. Even two different drummer were used on the album, each playing on three tracks. This meant the rhythm section featured drummers Steve McCall and Bobby Battle, bassist Fred Hopkins and guitarist James Blood Ulmer. Tubaist Bob Stewart returned, and was joined by cellist Abdul Wadud who had featured on Arthur Blythe’s first two albums. Completing the lineup was pianist John Hicks. They spent much of April and May recording Illusions. Once it was complete, critics were in for a surprise.
On Illusions, critics realised, that Arthur Blythe had used two different quartets. Musicians were swapped in and out, depending on the track. The result was an album of innovative and inventive jazz, where Arthur Blythe are at the peak of their powers. Arthur Blythe as a composer, bandleader and musician, was at his creative zenith, as he pushed musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. It was a fitting followup to Lennox Avenue Meltdown, Arthur Blythe’s Magnus Opus. However, while the music on Illusions was innovative and inventive, Columbia would’ve preferred an album that appealed to a much wider audience.
When Illusions was released, just like Arthur Blythe’s two previous albums, it failed to trouble the US Billboard 200. To make matters worse, Illusions didn’t even match the success of Lennox Avenue Meltdown, which reached thirty-five in the US Billboard Jazz Album Charts. For Arthur Blythe, this was a huge disappointment.
Arthur Blythe returned to CBS Recording Studios, in New York in 1981. This time around, Arthur Blythe had four new compositions, Contemplation, Faceless Woman, Reverence and Spirits in the Field. The other three tracks included George and Ira Gershwin’s Strike Up the Band; Johnny Burke and Erroll Garner’s Misty and a rework of the traditional gospel song Just a Closer Walk With Thee. These songs were recorded by a band that featured familiar faces and new names.
The rhythm section featured drummers Steve McCall and Bobby Battle, bassist Fred Hopkins and guitarist Kelvyn Bell. Tubaist Bob Stewart returned, and was joined by cellist Abdul Wadud and pianist John Hicks. Just like on Illusions, different musicians featured on the seven tracks. They would become Blythe Spirit, which produced by Jim Fishel and Arthur Blythe. It was a quite different album, from Arthur Blythe.
Critics realised this, when they received their advance copy of Blythe Spirit. Elements of avant-garde were combined with hard bop and R&B on Blythe Spirit Arthur Blythe. Some of the tracks featured a trio, while others featured quartet or quintet. They were responsible for tracks the veered between conventional like Misty, and a much more adventurous approach. Especially on the swinging take of Just A Closer Walk With Thee. Strike Up The Band was given an unlikely makeover, while the Arthur Blythe compositions are best described as genre-melting, and innovative. This resulted in an album that was well received by critics, but failed to find a wider audience.
Just like Illusions, Blythe Spirit failed to trouble the US Billboard 200. Illusions never even reached the US Billboard Jazz Album Charts. It was another disappointment for Arthur Blythe, and of course, Columbia.
They had placed their faith in Arthur Blythe, and gave him the freedom to release albums that featured ambitious, inventive and innovative. Sometimes it was almost experimental, as Arthur Blythe became a sonic explorer and took his music in unlikely directions on his first four albums for Columbia. However, Columbia weren’t about to give up on Arthur Blythe.
When Arthur Blythe began work on Elaborations he was at his creative peak, and full of new ideas. Arthur Blythe was constantly looking to reinvent his music and take in new directions. He was truly one of jazz’s pioneers, and the music he recorded at Columbia is a reminder of that. This includes Elaborations.
For Elaborations, Arthur Blythe composed five of the six tracks. This included Elaborations, Metamorphosis, Shadows and The Lower Nile. The only cover version on Elaborations was One Mint Julep which was written by Rudolph Toombs. These six tracks were recorded at CBS Recording Studios, in New York.
When the sessions for Elaborations began at CBS Recording Studios, in New York, Arthur Blythe was joined by co-produced by Jim Fishel. Elaborations would be the third Arthur Blythe album he had co-produced. He came onboard for the recording of Illusions in 1980 and returned for the recording of Blythe Spirit in 1981. The pair worked well together, and they reconvened for the recording of Elaborations. Joining them were some top session musicians.
Arthur Blythe’s band featured a rhythm section of drummer Bobby Battle and bassist Wilber Morris who played on Sister Daisy and guitarist Kelvyn Bell. They were joined by cellist Abdul Bob , Bob Stewart on tuba and Muhammad Abdullah who played congas on Sister Daisy. This talented and experienced band accompanied Arthur Blythe’s alto saxophone on Elaborations. When the sessions were over, the release was scheduled for later in 1982.
Before that, critics had their say on Elaborations, which was Arthur Blythe’s fifth album for Columbia. Critics were won over by Elaborations which was another ambitious and criticality album from one of the few remaining jazz pioneers.
Despite that, and the praise and plaudits Elaborations received, it wasn’t a commercial success upon its release in 1982. By then, Arthur Blythe had built up a loyal fan-base that followed his career with interest. They also bought all of the album he had released since 1977. The problem was, there wasn’t enough of them. Deep down though, forty-three year old Arthur Blythe knew his music had to find a wider audience.
Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk.
For his sixth album for Columbia, Arthur Blythe decided to pay homage to one of the true legends of jazz Thelonious Monk. He had passed away in 1982, and Arthur Blythe wanted to pay his own tribute to one of the greatest jazz musicians on Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk. This was fitting in more ways than one.
Just like Thelonious Monk, many critics and cultural commentators regarded Arthur Blythe as an avant-garde musician rather than a jazz musician. This wasn’t the only similarity between Monk and Arthur Blythe. The two men had signed to Columbia, in the hope that their music would find a wider audience. So far, this hadn’t happened for Arthur Blythe. Maybe Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk would be a game-changer?
Prior to recording Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk, Arthur Blythe had spent some time going through Monk’s compositions. He wanted to find songs that would translate from Monk’s piano to Arthur Blythe’s alto saxophone. Eventually, he settled on We See, Light Blue, Off Minor, Epistrophy which Monk wrote with Kenny Clarke, Coming On The Hudson and Nutty. These songs would become Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk, which Arthur Blythe produced himself.
This time around, there was no sign of Jim Fishel who had co-produced three albums with Arthur Blythe. Instead, Arthur Blythe took charge of production, and guided his band through the six songs on Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk. However, Arthur Blythe’s band featured many familiar faces.
Arthur Blythe’s core band featured the musicians that had featured on Elaborations. The rhythm section of drummer Bobby Battle and guitarist Kelvyn Bell. They were joined by cellist Abdul Wadud, Bob Stewart on tuba and Muhammad Abdullah who played congas. This was a talented, experienced and versatile band who would play their part on what was a fitting homage to Thelonious Monk.
The time that Arthur Blythe had spent choosing the right songs for his homage to Monk had been time well spent. Critics hailed the album a fitting tribute to one of the true legends of jazz. However, this wasn’t a slavish copy of the Monk’s originals. Instead, each composition was given a twist on Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk, which found favour among critics. They hailed it one of Arthur Blythe’s finest moments.
After receiving critically acclaimed reviews, Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk was released by Columbia in 1983. Sadly, it followed in the footsteps of his previous albums, and failed to find the audience it so richly deserved. By then, Arthur Blythe and executives at Columbia knew something had change.
Put Sunshine In It.
By the early eighties, jazz was no longer as possible as it had once been. It had been overtaken by other musical genres, and jazz was heading in the same direction as the blues some fifteen years earlier. Something had to change to save jazz from irrelevancy.
Fortunately, Dr. George Butler Columbia’s head of jazz was a man with a plan. He had been looking at who synths, sequencers, samplers, and drum machines could be used in jazz. This could be the start of a brave new world for the genre. However, moving in this direction could backfire for an artist, and could result in an album that lacked authenticity, tradition and soul. It could also proved to be a musical white elephant, and a blot on an artist’s CV. As a result, there weren’t going to be many people willing to record a jazz album using the new technology. That was until Dr. George Butler persuaded Arthur Blythe to be a guinea pig, and record the most experimental album of his career Put Sunshine In It.
For Put Sunshine In It, Arthur Blythe penned six new tracks for the most experimental album of his career. There must have been a degree of trepidation as he began work on an album that was totally different from anything he had released before. Despite that, the bandleader, composer and alto-saxophonist came up with six new songs including Tumalumah, Put Sunshine In It, Uptown Strut, Silhouette, # 5 and Sentimental Walk (Theme-Diva). These songs would feature on Put Sunshine In It.
A familiar face returned for the recording of Put Sunshine In It, co-producer Jim Fishel. He hadn’t worked on Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Plays Thelonious Monk, which Arthur Blythe produced himself. However, with the addition of the new technology this was uncharted territory for Arthur Blythe. He was joined by his usual band which included a rhythm section of drummer Bobby Battle and bassist Wilber Morris who played on Uptown Strut and guitarist Kelvyn Bell. They were joined by cellist Abdul Wadud, Bob Stewart on tuba and Muhammad Abdullah who played congas on Uptown Strut. This talented and experienced band accompanied Arthur Blythe’s alto saxophone on what was an ambitious and experimental album.
When the recording of Put Sunshine In It took place, tuba player Bob Stewart felt that Arthur Blythe’s heart wasn’t in the album. The band recorded their parts over a backing track that had already been programmed and recorded. This wasn’t the way album Arthur Blythe recorded an album and it wasn’t the album he had wanted to record. Instead, he would’ve rather stuck with the acoustic sound of previous albums. This offered Arthur Blythe the freedom to experiment and reinvent his music on each album. However, Dr. George Butler had persuaded Arthur Blythe to record an album where his band was augmented by a myriad of technology.
It was as if Dr. George Butler was planning to market Arthur Blythe as Columbia’s r answer to David Sanborn. What Dr. George Butler failed to grasp was that Arthur Blythe had no wish to be a David Sanborn clone. He would rather have left this to lesser musicians, lacking in pride and self-worth. However, after releasing six album that hadn’t reached a wider audience, Arthur Blythe delivered the album Columbia wanted.
Deep down, he must have known that if the album wasn’t a success, he could return to recording albums with his acoustic band. That was the music that Arthur Blythe enjoyed making and believed in. Despite the technology, Arthur Blythe’s acoustic band featured on Put Sunshine In It. It was a learning experience for the musicians involved. They were introduced to new technology that would soon play a major part in recording albums. Maybe not for alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe though?
Critics were surprised by the direction that Arthur Blythe’s music had headed in on Put Sunshine In It. Some welcomed the stylistic change, but many critics and commentators recognised that Arthur Blythe’s playing was still of the same high standard on an album that was a marriage of his acoustic band and the latest musical technology. Arthur Blythe had been encouraged to make use of technical tracery and overdubbing, which was a first for him. The result was a jazz album that was obviously recorded in the eighties. That is because of the technology used in the making of the album. It has an unmistakable eighties sound. Having said that, Put Sunshine In It has aged well, unlike much of the music released in the eighties.
When Put Sunshine In It was released in 1984, the album wasn’t a success. Even some of’s most loyal fans weren’t won over by the album. It had been an idea that was doomed to failure from the very start. The only person who failed to realise this, was Dr. George Butler, who was Columbia’s head of jazz.
In some record companies the failure of Put Sunshine In It would’ve cost Dr. George Butler his job. His idea to reinvent Arthur Blythe had backfired. He had press-ganged Arthur Blythe into recording an album he didn’t want to record. The result was the Put Sunshine In It, which was the least successful album of the alto saxophonist’s career. Despite this Dr. George Butler held onto his position as Columbia’s head of jazz. For Arthur Blythe this was a worrying time.
With Dr. George Butler continuing as Columbia’s head of jazz, Arthur Blythe no longer had the same artistic freedom that he had enjoyed up when Bruce Landvall was in charge. He had left Columbia in 1982. Gone were the days when Arthur Blythe could record ambitious and innovative albums, and could continue to reinvent his music on each album.
It was another two years before Arthur Blythe returned in 1986 with his eighth album for Columbia, Da-Da. While it was well received by critics, it failed to find a wider audience. It was a same case with Arthur Blythe’s Columbia swan-song Basic Blythe in 1987. That was the ninth album that Arthur Blythe had recorded for Columbia in nine years.
After the release of Basic Blythe in 1987, Arthur Blythe left Columbia. Although Arthur Blythe’s career continue and he released another nine more albums between 1991 and 2003. While Arthur Blythe continued to release albums of ambitious music, his most productive years were spent at Columbia. That was where Arthur Blythe recorded and released the best music of his four decade career. This includes the seven albums he released between 1978s In The Tradition and 1983s Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk. They feature the finest music Arthur Blythe’s career and are reminder of the legendary alto saxophonist at the peak of creative powers.
Sadly, legendary bandleader, composer and alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe passed away earlier this year on March the ’27th’ 2017, aged seventy-six. By then, Arthur Blythe was largely unknown outside of a small coterie of jazz aficionados who appreciated the music of this true jazz great. For newcomers to Arthur Blythe’s music, the perfect place to start is the music he released during his Columbia years and especially between 1978s In The Tradition and Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk in 1983.
Arthur Blythe-The Columbia Years.