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Arthur Blythe (July 5, 1940 – March 27, 2017) was an American jazz alto saxophonist and composer. His instrumental voice had a vibrato and was within the post-bop subgenre of jazz.

Born in Los Angeles, Blythe lived in San Diego, returning to Los Angeles when he was 19 years old. He took up the alto saxophone at the age of nine, playing R&B until his mid-teens when he discovered jazz. In the mid-1960s, Blythe was part of The Underground Musicians and Artists Association (UGMAA), founded by Horace Tapscott, on whose 1969 The Giant Is Awakened he made his recording debut.

After moving to New York in the mid-70s, Blythe worked as a security guard before being offered a place as sideman for Chico Hamilton (75–77). He subsequently played with Gil Evans' Orchestra (1976–78), Lester Bowie (1978), Jack DeJohnette (1979) and McCoy Tyner (also 1979). Blythe's group – John Hicks, Fred Hopkins and Steve McCall – played Carnegie Hall and the Village Vanguard in 1979.

Blythe began to record as a leader in 1977 for the India Navigation label and then for Columbia records from 1978 to 1987. Albums such as The Grip and Metamorphosis (both on the label) offered capable, highly refined jazz fare with a free angle which seemed "out there". Blythe played on many pivotal albums of the 1980s, among them Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition on ECM. Blythe was a member of the all-star jazz group The Leaders and, after the departure of Julius Hemphill, he joined the World Saxophone Quartet. Beginning in 2000 he made recordings on Savant Records which included Exhale (2003) with John Hicks (piano), Bob Stewart (tuba), and Cecil Brooks III (drums).


As leader

Year Title Label
1977 The Grip India Navigation
1977 Metamorphosis India Navigation
1977 Bush Baby Adelphi
1978 In the Tradition Columbia
1978 Lenox Avenue Breakdown Columbia
1980 Illusions Columbia
1981 Blythe Spirit Columbia
1982 Elaborations Columbia
1983 Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk Columbia
1984 Put Sunshine in It Columbia
1986 Da-Da Columbia
1987 Basic Blythe Columbia
1996 Calling Card Enja
1996 Synergy In - Out
1991 Hipmotism Enja
1997 Today's Blues CIMP
1997 Night Song Clarity
2000 Spirits in the Field Savant
2001 Blythe Byte Savant
2002 Focus Savant
2003 Exhale Savant


With Synthesis

Six by Six (Chiaroscuro, 1977), with Olu Dara, a.o.
Segments (Ra, 1979), with Olu Dara, David Murray, a.o.

With The Leaders

Mudfoot (Black Hawk, 1986)
Out Here Like This (Black Saint, 1987)
Unforeseen Blessings (Black Saint, 1988)
Slipping and Sliding (Sound Hills, 1994)
Spirits Alike (Double Moon, 2006)

With Roots

Salutes the Saxophone – Tributes to John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins and Lester Young (In & Out, 1992)
Stablemates (In & Out, 1993)
Say Something (In & Out, 1995)

With Santi Debriano and Billy Hart

3-Ology (Konnex, 1993)

With Jeff Palmer, John Abercrombie, Victor Lewis

Ease On (AudioQuest Music, 1993)

With David Eyges and Bruce Ditmas

Synergy (In & Out, 1997)
With John Abercrombie, Terri Lyne Carrington, Anthony Cox, Mark Feldman, Gust Tsilis

Echoes (Alessa, 2005)

As sideman

With Joey Baron

Down Home (Intuition, 1997) with Ron Carter and Bill Frisell
We'll Soon Find Out (Intuition, 1999) with Ron Carter and Bill Frisell

With Lester Bowie

The 5th Power (Black Saint, 1978)
African Children (Horo, 1978)
With Jack DeJohnette

Special Edition (ECM, 1979)

With Gil Evans

Gil Evans Live at the Royal Festival Hall London 1978 (RCA, 1979)
The Rest of Gil Evans Live at the Royal Festival Hall London 1978 (Mole Jazz, 1981)
Parabola (Horo, 1979)
Live at the Public Theater, Vol. 1 & 2 (Trio (Japan)/Storyville (Sweden), 1980)
Priestess (Antilles, 1983)
Sting and Gil Evans – Strange Fruit (ITM, 1993), three tracks with Blythe rec. 1976 without Sting

With John Fischer

6 × 1 = 10 Duos for a New Decade (Circle, 1980)

With Chico Freeman

Luminous (Jazz House, 1989)
Focus (Contemporary, 1995)

With Chico Hamilton

Peregrinations (Blue Note, 1975)
Chico Hamilton and the Players (Blue Note, 1976)

With Craig Harris

Cold Sweat Plays J. B. (JMT, 1999)

With Julius Hemphill

Coon Bid'ness (Freedom, 1972)

With Azar Lawrence

Bridge into the New Age (Prestige, 1974)

With the Music Revelation Ensemble

In the Name of… (DIW, 1994)
Knights of Power (DIW, 1996)

With Woody Shaw

The Iron Men with Anthony Braxton (Muse, 1977)

With Horace Tapscott

The Giant is Awakened (Flying Dutchman, 1969)

With Gust William Tsilis & Alithea

Pale Fire (Enja, 1988)

With McCoy Tyner

Quartets 4 X 4 (Milestone, 1980)
44th Street Suite (Red Baron,1991)

With the World Saxophone Quartet

Metamorphosis (Elektra Nonesuch, 1990)
Breath of Life (Elektra Nonesuch, 1992)

  • Info
  • 5 July 1940
  • Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, United States Died 27 March 2017 (Aged 76)

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