Friday, May 23, 2014

Let's Help Arthur Blythe
It's been nearly a year since I first read about the debilitating conditions plaguing the great alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe (pictured left). The worst issue is that he suffers from Parkinson's Disease plus, in July 2013, a large benign tumor was removed from his right kidney and, while he has been recovering, it's a slow healing process.  Like most musicians, the 74-year old Blythe has no comprehensive insurance.

I remember seeing and hearing Arthur Blythe with tubaist Bob Stewart and a percussionist (perhaps Akhmed Abdullah) in the old Real Art Ways space across from the-then Hartford Civic Center.  He had the sweetest tone on the alto, not as shrill as David Sanborn can be at times, but with a similar vocal cry in his phrases, a touch of Johnny Hodges here and there but just such as lilt.  Even in his "freer" pieces, he never lost touch with the melodic side of his playing.  Blythe signed with CBS Records in 1979, covering a number of different styles before moving on to ENJA Records. Along with Lester Bowie, Famadou Don Moye, Kirk Lightsey and Cecil McBee, he helped form the Leaders and ask was recruited into the World Saxophone Quartet after Julius Hemphill left. Blythe spent time as a member of Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition for that group's ECM debut.  After a series of recordings for the Savant label (2000-2003), he moved back to his native San Diego and, due to illness, slowly withdrew from the music scene.

Composer/percussionist/producer Gust William Tsillis, with whom Mr. Blythe recorded in the late 1980s and early 90s, has set up the Arthur Blythe Parkinson's Fund so that the costs of his care and medication can be covered. Go to to find out more about how you can help.

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