Marty Ehrlich (born May 31, 1955) is a multi-instrumentalist (saxophones, clarinets, flutes) and is considered one of the leading figures in experimental or avant-garde jazz.
Though born in St. Paul Minnesota, the portion of Marty's youth spent in St. Louis, Missouri, was particularly important. As a high school student at University City High School in St. Louis, the teenager came into contact with the influential Black Artists' Group (BAG, 1968-72) which was modelled after the AACM in Chicago. Later, during formal studies at the New England Conservatory, Ehrlich developed a particularly close relationship with pianist Jaki Byard. It was here that he was most deeply schooled in traditional jazz forms, as well as Western European classical music. During these formative years, Marty was exposed to the cultural, political and musical workings of radical African-American art, and was mentored to such legends as Julius Hemphill and Oliver Lake. Often associated with "Radical Jewish Culture" and cult icon John Zorn, Ehrlich has throughout the years nevertheless resisted classification under any single musical genre. He has, for instance, been a mainstay of trumpeter Randy Sandke's Inside Out ensemble, which offers a unique combination of avant-garde–associated figures and mainstreamers.
Since his 1978 move to New York, Marty has been a performer and leader with numerous bands of legendary repute, as well as a soloist for a number of major orchestras. But perhaps his most important recent contributions to the story of Jazz and improvised musics, was completed at a residency in Harvard. The composition (scored for an ensemble of both strings and horns) is inspired from abstract paintings by Oliver Jackson, and has been hailed as "one of a handful of integral long-form works in jazz, standing beside those of the likes of Hemphill, Mingus, and Ellington" (Boston Phoenix).
Marty currently lives in New York City, commuting to teach at Hampshire College, and devoting much energy to his duo with pianist Myra Melford, and trio with Mark Dresser (contrabass) and Andrew Cyrille (drums).