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Saxophonist Arthur Blythe Dies at 76

Distinctive, powerful alto voice melded free sensibilities with traditionalist precision

Arthur Blythe
Arthur Blythe

Arthur Blythe, a powerful, free-influenced saxophonist who worked with Mose Allison, Lester Bowie, Jack DeJohnette, Gil Evans, Chico Freeman, Chico Hamilton, Julius Hemphill, McCoy Tyner, James “Blood” Ulmer and others, was a member of the World Saxophone Quartet and recorded over 30 albums as a leader, died on March 27 at age 76. Blythe had battled Parkinson’s disease for several years and had other health issues.

Blythe’s alto voice—sparkling yet sturdy with a steady vibrato that nodded to the past—was easily recognizable yet accessible. But his late start as a leader, uncompromising creativity and the emergence of the “young lions” of 1980s neotraditionalism combined to keep him on the outskirts of mainstream success.

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