Ehrlich, Marty

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Ehrlich, Marty

Ehrlich, Marty, contemporary jazz reeds player, composer, arranger; b. St. Paul, Minn., May 31, 1955. Ehrlich grew up in Louisville, Ky, and started on clarinet in a summer band program at age seven. When he was 10 his social-worker parents moved to the St. Louis, Mo., suburb of University City. He picked up the sax in junior high and played in the band. At a weekend arts program he met dramatist Malinke Elliott, who was a founder of the Black Artists Group (BAG). Elliott gave him records by Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler and Ehrlich’s sister brought home Eric Dolphy’s Alone Together. His mentors were Oliver Lake and especially lulius Hemphill; Ehrlich also worked with J.D. Parran. Erhlich jammed regularly with BAG members, sat in playing standards at clubs, and made his first record in high school. Rejected by the jazz program at the New England Cons, of Music, he entered the classical department as a clarinetist, but the next fall got into the jazz department, where Fred Hersch and Anthony Coleman were classmates. He had private lessons with Joe Allard. By his third year, he was in both George Russell’s and Jaki Byard’s big bands, as well as Gunther Schuller and Ran Blake’s third stream department. He also worked locally with Stan Strickland and recorded with guitarist Michael Gregory Jackson. At Christmas 1978, about six months after graduating with honors (he received the Outstanding Alumni Award in 1992), he moved to N.Y. to live with Tim Berne, a fellow protege of Hemphill. His first N.Y. gig was with Hemphill and John Hicks for “family day” at Hicks’s father’s church in Harlem. He worked with Chico Hamilton and George Russell, including many dates at the Village Vanguard. In 1978 he toured Europe for the first time with Braxton’s big band. With Charles “Bobo” Shaw’s Human Arts Ensemble, he opened the Antibes Jazz Festival for Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman. He has played with leading modern jazz performer/composers, including Hemphill, Lake, Anthony Davis (including the N.Y.C. Opera premiere of X in fall 1986), Leroy Jenkins, John Lindberg, Muhal Richard Abrams, Wayne Horvitz, Bobby Previte, John Carter, Roscoe Mitchell, Jack Dejohnette, George Gruntz, and John Zorn. In the 1980s he settled in N.Y.’s East Village and became active in the so-called down-town scene around the Knitting Factory. His own trio in the 1980s consisted of Pheeroan Aklaff and Anthony Cox. Later he formed a quartet with Bobby Previte, Lindsay Horner, and Stan Strickland. In 1995, he toured Europe with Don Grolnick and the Brecker Brothers and played at the Knitting Factory in a quartet led by Braxton on piano. A new trio Relativity with Mike Formanek and Peter Erskine recorded in February 1998. As a composer, he has been commissioned by the N.Y. Composer’s Orch. (who recorded his “After All”), the Boston Jazz Composer’s Alliance, and the N.Y. String Trio. His mid-1990s premieres include String Quartet No. 1, commissioned by the Lydian String Quartet and “Bright Canto,” commissioned by pianist Ursula Oppens. He has received commissioning grants from the N.Y. Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Meet the Composer.


Welcome (1984); Eight Bold Souls (1986); Pliant Plaint (1987); Falling Man (1989); Traveller’s Tale (1989); Emergency Peace (1990); Side by Side (1991); Can You Hear a Motion? (1993); Just Before Dawn (1995); New York Child (1996); Open Air Meeting (1997); Light at the Crossroads (1997); At Dr. King’s Table (1997).

—Lewis Porter