Arthur Blythe's story may not make a movie, but it certainly works as jazz allegory. He came to New York from San Diego in the magical mid '70s, and on his second night out sat in with Elvin Jones. Although he was critically neglected at home, at 34 he was hardly inexperienced—having studied with, among others, the 1940s Lunceford saxophonist Kirtland Bradford and bandleader Horace Tapscott, in whose groups he had played for a decade—and he came East complete with the attention-grabbing sobriquet Black Arthur Blythe. But far more impressive was his wholly original approach to timbre. He made the saxophone sound like no one else—round as Benny Carter, ardent as John Coltrane. Along with Julius Hemphill and Oliver Lake, he put the alto back into contention. His hard- riffing, economical phrases were girded by a fast, edgy vibrato that at its best cut like a Ginsu and at its not-best vibrated with a whining nasality that suggested Al Jolson. The phrases, too, were original, punchy with a fastidious lyricism. When in 1975 he performed at a loft concert with the no less distinctive 20-year-old David Murray, it seemed as though Western winds were, at last, blasting jazz out of its long night... More >>>