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Marsh, Warne (Marion)

Marsh, Warne (Marion)

Marsh, Warne (Marion), tenor saxophonist; b.Los Angeles, Oct. 26, 1927; d. Burbank, Calif., Dec. 18, 1987. He was perhaps Lennie Tristano’s most loyal long-term protege. In live performance he had an electric intensity that rarely if ever came across on records, though it is reflected in the amazingly concentrated quality of his melodic lines.

His father, Oliver T. Marsh, was a leading cinematographer, and his mother Elizabeth was a violinist who used to play music for the actors during the filming of silent movies. He studied alto saxophone in junior high school but soon switched to tenor, and played bass clarinet in the Los Angeles All-City H.S. Orch. He studied classical saxophone with Mickey Gillette and took a few lessons with Corky Corcoran. In the fall of 1942, he began performing with a youth swing band that became known as the Hollywood Canteen Kids. From 1944–46 they appeared in radio broadcasts, the short films of Junior Jive Bombers and Double Rhythm, and in the feature film Song of the Open Road. As part of the Teen-Agers, which included Andre Previn, he was on the Hoagy Carmichael Show for most of 1945. He also began sitting in at black clubs on Central Avenue and elsewhere. In fall 1945 he enrolled as a music major at the Univ. of Southern Calif. in Los Angeles and on April 1946 he was inducted into the army and played in the band at Camp Lee, Va. There he met Don Ferrara and Ted Brown and first learned of Tristano. When he was relocated to Fort Monmouth, N.J., in Jan. 1947, he began studying with Tristano and studied clarinet with Joe Allard of Julliard. On his discharge in 1947 he returned to Los Angeles and freelanced, including an April 1948 engagement with the Tom Talbert orch. at the Trianon Ballroom. In July 1948 he joined Buddy Rich and toured the country. Marsh left the band around December 1948 in N.Y. and resumed studies with Tristano as well as performing and recording with him through August 1955. His career was hampered by recurrent drug problems. He returned to the West Coast around the beginning of 1961, and for the next nine years performed sporadically in public, working occasional jobs in electronics. In 1962 he joined the Les Elgart band briefly and moved to Las Vegas. He returned to N.Y. at the end of 1963, married Geraldyne Elmore there in 1964 (they had a son in 1968), and performed regularly with Tristano, including the TV show Live from the Half Note in August 1964. In the spring of 1966 he played a one-week engagement at the Cellar Club in Toronto with Tristano. He worked with Clare Fischer’s big band in Los Angeles from 1968–70 and taught privately. He he emerged as a lead member of Supersax (1972–77) and recorded frequently. He became a cocaine addict during the 1980s. He died shortly after suffering a heart attack while onstage at Donte’s.


Live in Hollywood (1952); Lee Konitz with Warne Marsh (1955); Jazz of Two Cities (1956); Winds of Marsh (1956); Music for Prancing (1957); Warne Marsh (1957); The Art of Improvising (1959); Jazz from the East Village (1960); Ne Plus Ultra (1969); Warne Marsh & Lee Konitz Live (1975); Warne Marsh Quintet (1975); Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz (1975); All Music (1976); Tenor Gladness (1976); How Deep, How High (1977); Warne Out (1977); Star Highs (1982); Warne Marsh Meets Gary Foster (1982); Ballad Album (1983); Newly Warne (1985); Posthumous (1985); Back Home (1986); Red Mitchell / Warne Marsh Big (1987); Two Days in the Life Of...(1987); Warne Marsh and Susan Chen (1987). B. Rich:The Legendary ’47-’48 Orchestra. Tristano:Wow (1949); Crosscurrents (1949).

—Safford Chamberlain

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