Thursday, May 14, 2009

Meet Marty Ehrlich...

I'll gladly and proudly admit it: I'm a big fan of Marty Ehrlich. I've followed his career for more than fifteen years. I've profiled him on the radio show I co-host. I've hunted down many of his recordings. I remember reading a blog entry somewhere years ago to the effect that one could almost rate an album as excellent without having heard a note if Marty Ehrlich was on it. I wouldn't go that far but his name on a work immediately draws my eye. He's played on recordings by Andrew Hill, Julius Hemphill, Bobby Previte, Don Grolnick and John Carter (among others)

In fact, I first heard Marty Ehrlich with the John Carter Octet. I was lucky enough to catch them live at the Montreal Jazz Festival when they were touring for Castles of Ghana, the second volume of Carter's five part series Roots and Folklore: Episodes in the Development of American Folk Music.

Marty plays the saxophones and the clarinets and possesses a singularly melodic sound. No matter how "free" the music may get, Marty digs out the lyrical aspect of it and lays down a narrative that sustains the listener's interest from beginning to end.

Marty was born in St. Louis and, after musical studies, became a member of BAG (Black Artists Group). Members also included saxophonists Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake, J. D. Parran, Hamiet Bluiett, and Luther Thomas; trumpeters Lester Bowie, Baikida Carroll and Floyd LeFlore; trombonist Joseph Bowie; drummers Bensid Thigpen and Charles "Bobo" Shaw; bassist Arzinia Richardson and existed from 1968 to 1972.

He's led recording sessions for ENJA, NEW WORLD, MUSIC & ARTS, JUSTIN TIME, GRAMMAVISION, NAXOS, TZADIK, OMNITONE, SONGLINES and , most recently, PALMETTO. He's recorded duet albums with pianists Myra Melford, Mike Nock, Muhal Richard Abrams, horn player Ben Goldberg, and bassist Anthony Cox.

What we focus on with this post is his duet recordings. The album featured is a duo album he recorded in 1989 with bassist Anthony Cox for the now defunct MUSE label called Falling Man. The two sets from a 2005 duo concert Ehrlich gave sees him accompanied by bassist Michael Formanek (with whom Ehrlich has recorded several times).

This early album is comprised mostly of original compositions by Ehrlich and/or Cox with a Jaki Byard tune ("Bird's Mother") and the standard, "You Don't Know What Love Is" (one of my four or five favourite standards) included. The playlist looks like this:

1. Falling Man (Ehrlich) 4:58
2. Lament in Passing Ehrlich) 5:45
3. Wheels/Dice (Cox) 4:52
4. Phantoms (Cox) 3:47
5. The Terrible Twos (Cox, Ehrlich) 3:05
6. Segue (Cox) 2:03
7. Bird's Mother (Byard) 5:14
8. The Protector (Cox) 3:21
9. You Don't Know What Love Is (DePaul, Raye) 7:27
10. Mississippi House (Ehrlich) 4:51
The 2005 duet concert from Philadelphia is split into two sets: set 1 (six pieces) is here, and set 2 (four pieces) is here. All of the songs are introduced by Ehrlich and are a combination of Ehrlich and Formanek compositions.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article on a very good musician, and thanks for the music.