Out of Nowhere
the musical life of Warne Marsh
Warne Marsh (1927-1987)
He has been recognised by an increasing number of attentive performers and listeners as perhaps one of the most inspired ‘western’ improvisational musicians of all time, jazz or classical. His genius was spotted very early on in his career by no less than Charlie Parker, who remarked, “Watch that kid. He’s got it.“
Playing professionally from his early teenage years, Marsh performed with many of the very finest musicians of his day, such as Lennie Tristano, Sal Mosca, Lee Konitz, Peter Ind, Peter Ball, Red Mitchell, Chet Baker, Art Pepper, Bill Evans, Ted Brown amongst many others. He performed at many leading American venues, including Birdland, Carnegie Hall, the Village Vanguard, the Half Note and the now defunct Donte’s, and appeared at many major European jazz festivals, clubs and concerts halls.
Playing in noisy clubs he never did enjoy and had an unfilled dream of creating an intimate venue that was as respectful of the performer as performance spaces that classical musicians have ready access to.
Despite the categories that we find it very hard to live without, Warne Marsh’s music never did and never will fit into any category, such as the horrible misnomer of the ‘cool school’. Marsh became a much-loved teacher as well and, as with many other American jazz musicians of his time, really found ‘recognition’ and fruition in Europe. He was a master of the tenor saxophone and it is hard to imagine any performer with a finer sense for the ‘new’ melodic line than he. His output was prodigious (see the Warne Marsh music link), amazing for someone who preferred playing live to a caring audience than to a studio microphone.
The biography - in fact more of a ‘fictional autobiography’ - explores the evolution of Marsh’s creative genius, against the backdrop of developments in the musical context over the span of his career. It uses the original and effective device of presenting the story mostly in the first person, which achieves for the story a greater intimacy with the subject than could otherwise be achieved.
This aspect of the telling turns the book into a tour de force, and gives it a magic that straight ahead biographies do not usually get to. This approach to the search for authenticity and immediacy is more than validated by the comment of his widow, Geraldyne Marsh who said that reading the book “was like having Warne back in the living room”.
The writing style and form has been described as a verbal expression of the way Warne Marsh played the music. The highly original work would make a very happy addition to the recommended or ‘required’ reading list of any Creative Writing program and music school.
The book has been described (see “Readers’ Comments”) as one of the finest books written on ‘the music’ of any genre, and has made such an impact on several readers that, once the book was finished, they started reading it again. This is as true for some who knew Warne very well as for those who did not know him at all and had never heard his music. There are not many books related to music that have that effect.
¨Such a beautiful book, pure poetry!¨ Galen Pittman, pianist (USA)
"The most literate book about jazz, or any music, that I have read. A compelling read - as soon as I reached the last page I had to start all over again." Kerr Ferguson (UK)
"Just magic. Fabulous. And it would make a wonderful film." Ike Isaacs, jazz guitarist and teacher (Australia)
"It was just like listening to Warne's music, written the way he played. Reading it made me feel like playing and playing. Thank you so much." Susan Chen, pianist (USA)
"I started reading the book all over again and read it in one sitting, stopping only for a bite for lunch. It is an impressive book, stylish, mellifluous, deep and full of the feel of Warne's life....the feel and structure and flow of a piece of music." Enver Carim, writer (UK)
"Out of Nowhere, the novel, is as demanding, intriguing, artistic and powerful as the best of Warne Marsh's oeuvre. This is literature of a higher order, and it swings." Prof. Kevin Monahan, Hokuriku University (Japan)
" ... a fascinating and thoughtfully detailed insight into the life of this highly respected player. Essential reading for anyone interested in discovering the inner motivation of a jazz musician." Mike Nelson, Jazz pianist, composer and arranger (Australia)