An Unsung Cat: The Life and Music of Warne Marsh

Warne Marsh

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An Unsung Cat: The Life and Music of Warne Marsh Review

by Ken Dryden

This anthology of the late tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh is intended to serve as a companion to the Scarecrow Press book with the same title, which was published in 2001. This is not your typical anthology, as it includes material from a number of labels, including Prestige, Vanguard, Riverside, VSOP, Inner City, Zinnia, and Storyville, as well as several previously unreleased private recordings. Probably the most intriguing cut is Marsh's performance in the big band the Teenagers playing Woody Herman's "Apple Honey" on NBC's The Hoagy Carmichael Show in the mid-'40s, while still in his late teens and prior to his transformation under the tutelage of pianist Lennie Tristano. Even rarer is a private rehearsal tape of "How High the Moon" (featuring Marsh playing along with a Jamey Aebersold record that has pianist Kenny Barron tuned out!); there are also privately recorded concert dates of "Lennie's Pennies" with a big band led by alto saxophonist Gary Foster and a duet with guitarist Larry Koonse of "Sweet and Lovely." As the reissued tracks are considered, it's obvious that his trademark cool tone is already present on the 1949 recordings with alto saxophonist Lee Konitz (who he recorded with a number of times during his career), which include a wild reworking of "Cherokee" called "Marshmallow" and the even more complex "Tautology" (based on "Idaho"). An emotional "You Don't Know What Love Is" features Marsh in a quartet with the incomparable bassist Niels Pedersen. His mellow interpretation of "Easy" (his reworking of "Easy Living") finds him accompanied by the brilliant pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi; this track is taken from an LP on the long defunct Inner City label. This collection is a well thought out retrospective of a talented musician that deserved greater fame during his lifetime.

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