Saxophone, jazz, played with Woody Herman, Frank Sinatra
The following is an extraordinary interview with Arno Marsh, conducted by Marc Myers of JazzWax.com. This excerpt is used with permission.
January 26, 2012
Interview: Arno Marsh (Part 1)
Don Fagerquist, Arno Marsh, Georgie Auld in 1958 at Capitol Records, Los Angeles
If you were a superb musician back in the 1940s and lived in a city or moved to one, you were likely going to find yourself auditioning for a name band pretty quickly. But for every great musician who wound up in a major orchestra, there were hundreds of others who remained in their smaller home towns and earned a decent living playing in territory bands. Tenor saxophonist Arno Marsh was one of those regional musicians—until he ran into Urbie Green in 1951. [Pictured, from left: Trumpeter Don Fagerquist, Arno Marsh and tenor saxophonist Georgie Auld at Capitol Records in Hollywood in 1958, courtesy of Arno Marsh]
Unlike many of the tenor saxophonists who worshiped Lester Young and adapted his cooler, linear sound, Arno favored Chu Berry [pictured], Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins—saxophonists with more bite. In the ’50s, Marsh played in Woody Herman’s Third Herd, with stints in the ’56 orchestras of Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson before settling in Las Vegas.
In Part 1 of my two-part conversation with Arno, 83, the tenor saxophonist talks about growing up in the Midwest, and his early career on local bands that toured neighboring states.
JazzWax: What did your father do in Grand Rapids?
Arno Marsh: My dad played banjo, before the guitar became popular. Then he was a professional guitarist. He also copied music for the Grand Rapids Symphony. And in his spare time he was a painter and mechanical draftsman. Later in life he built a lake resort in Northern Michigan.
JW: Your dad was quite something.
AM: He was. My mother was a piano player and flutist. But back in the early days when they met, she played piano in silent movies. Unfortunately my mom became ill early.
JW: What happened?
AM: Schizophrenia. She was in and out of institutions when I was young. As a result, I hardly knew her. I only saw her maybe three or four times in my life.
JW: Who raised you?
AM: My grandparents. My dad, my brother and I lived all with them in their house. At least we had the influence of one female.
To read the rest of this article, please click on this link http://www.jazzwax.com/2012/01/interview-arno-marsh-part-1.html (for the remainder of part one of this article. This link will take you to JazzWax.com’s website.
When you are finished reading part one, here is a link to part 2 of the article: http://www.jazzwax.com/2012/01/interview-arno-marsh-part-2.html You can also find the link to part 2 of this article on the Jazz.Wax.com website.
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF
The story of Arno Marsh will be told, sung, and played by a retinue of talent assembled for a matinee performance at the E-String, November 14th at 3:00PM. Producer/writer Phil Marcus Esser has wrapped the Bruce Harper Band around Arno and his life story as he plays his way from big band to big band. Besides the 17 piece orchestra there will be special appearances by piano man Charlie Shaffer and his bass playing sidekick of many years, Bob Baker, as well as singers Mike Miele, Laura Shaffer, and Marsha Ross.
When you see and hear him playing his well used tenor sax that used to belong to Stan Getz, it’s hard to believe that Arno Marsh is 82 years old. You find yourself being transported to birdland. You pay attention! His dad paid attention when Arno mentioned that he liked the Louis Armstrong stuff a lot more than the Guy Lombardo. So, when Arno was ten years old, he was given a trumpet. He said, “No”, so his father tried a saxophone! That was it! And you have to wonder if he had any idea where that instrument was going to lead him. In 1945, he left his hometown, Grand Rapids, Michigan, to try his skills as a sax player in what they then called, “Midwest territory bands”. He wanted to play Jazz. A few years later, he joined Woody Herman in creating what would be known as “The Third Herd”. From there the list of famous bands and performances go on forever. He was good! The offers kept coming
Arno Marsh (b. May 28, 1928, Grand Rapids, Michigan) is an American jazz tenor saxophonist.
Marsh played early on in local dance bands, then played in Woody Herman’s ensemble from 1951 to 1953, where he soloed frequently on Herman’s Mars Records releases. He led a band in a Grand Rapids residency from 1953 to 1955, then rejoined Herman intermittently through 1958. He also recorded with Stan Kenton, Charlie Barnet, Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich, and Harry James. After the late 1950s most of Marsh’s activity was in Las Vegas leading hotel orchestras; he accompanied Nancy Wilson on record with one of them in 1968, and did a Woody Herman tribute in 1974. His son, Randy Marsh, is a noted jazz drummer who performed for years with pianist Eddie Russ, a student of Art Tatum from Pittsburgh, PA.
The Jazz Network Worldwide:
Saxman Arno Marsh joins his son, drummer Randy Marsh, for an evening at Rockford Michigan’s Grill One-Eleven
78rpm: Beau Jazz – Woody Herman and The New Third Herd, 1953 – Mars Promo 900 YouTube (2:45) with Arno Marsh – Tenor Sax
Arno Marsh – Body & Soul – YouTube (5:05)
Tenor Gladness playing Disc Jocky Jump – Arno Marsh – Tenor Sax – YouTube (10:01)
Tenor Gladness does Tenor Madness – Arno Marsh – Tenor Sax – YouTube (6:40)
Apples featuring Louis Bellson – 1966 – Arno Marsh – Tenor Sax – YouTube (2:39)
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