Warne Marsh
Warne Marsh, Amsterdam, 1982
Warne Marsh, Amsterdam, 1982
Background information
Birth nameWarne Marion Marsh
Born(1927-10-26)October 26, 1927
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedDecember 18, 1987(1987-12-18) (aged 60)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years activeEarly 1940s–1987
Formerly ofLennie Tristano, Lee Konitz, Supersax

Warne Marion Marsh (October 26, 1927 – December 18, 1987)[1] was an American tenor saxophonist. Born in Los Angeles, his playing first came to prominence in the 1950s as a protégé of pianist Lennie Tristano and earned attention in the 1970s as a member of Supersax.


Marsh came from an affluent artistic background: his father was Hollywood cinematographer Oliver T. Marsh (1892–1941), and his mother Elizabeth was a violinist. He was the nephew of actresses Mae Marsh and Marguerite Marsh and film editor Frances Marsh.

He was tutored by Lennie Tristano.[1] Marsh was often recorded in the company of other Cool School musicians,[2] and remained one of the most faithful to the Tristano philosophy of improvisation – the faith in the purity of the long line, the avoidance of licks and emotional chain-pulling, the concentration on endlessly mining the same small body of jazz standards. While Marsh was a generally cool-toned player, the critic Scott Yanow notes that Marsh played with "more fire than one would expect" in certain contexts.[3]

Marsh's rhythmically subtle lines are immediately recognizable. He has been called by Anthony Braxton "the greatest vertical improviser" (i.e., improvising that emphasizes harmony/chords more than melody).[4] In the 1970s, he gained renewed exposure as a member of Supersax, a large ensemble which played orchestral arrangements of Charlie Parker solos.[1] Marsh also recorded one of his most celebrated albums, All Music, with the Supersax rhythm section during this period.

Marsh died of a heart attack onstage at the Los Angeles club Donte's in 1987,[1] in the middle of playing the tune "Out of Nowhere".[5] He left a widow, Geraldyne Marsh, and two sons, K.C. Marsh and Jason Marsh. He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Though he remains something of a cult figure among jazz fans and musicians, his influence has grown since his death; younger players such as Mark Turner have borrowed from his music as a way of counterbalancing the pervasive influence of John Coltrane. Marsh's discography remains somewhat scattered and elusive, as much of it was done for small labels, but more and more of his work has been issued on compact disc in recent years.

A documentary is being made about him: Warne Marsh: An Improvised Life, directed by his eldest son, K.C. Marsh.


As leader/co-leader

As co-leader/sideman

With Elek Bacsik

With Chet Baker

With Bill Evans

With Clare Fischer

With Lee Konitz


  1. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 277. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ Gridley, Mark C. (1994), "Styles", in Ron Wynn (ed.), All Music Guide to Jazz, M. Erlewine, V. Bogdanov, San Francisco: Miller Freeman, p. 11, ISBN 0-87930-308-5
  3. ^ "Star Highs - Warne Marsh - Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  4. ^ Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, p. 857
  5. ^ Warne Marsh, Peter Madsen, Allaboutjazz.com, November 2001
  6. ^ "Warne Marsh | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved December 24, 2016.

Further reading