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Arno Marsh

Saxophone, jazz, played with Woody Herman, Frank Sinatra



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.

During the last 65 years, Arno Marsh has played sax for 30 famous bands (that he could remember) He forgot Lionel Hampton. You’d think he’d remember that! He was the only white musician in that band. He might have forgotten a few more. The thing is, he’s been everywhere and he’s done everything. And, he still plays many of the reunions of all these bands: Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Harry James, Jimmy Dorsey, Count Basie. A few months ago, he flew to Chile to play in an orchestra presentation of the Frank Sinatra Song Book, another style of music that he had been so much a part of.

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 moved to Las Vegas in 1960 and joined the famous Charlie Ventura band at the Thunderbird Lounge. The jam sessions there with Arno, Carl Fontana and Ventura were legendary. Drew Page, a sax and clarinet player who started with the big bands in the 1920’s and who wrote Drew’s Blue’s – A Sideman’s Life With The Big Bands  in 1981 praises Arno as one of the great heroes of the big bands. Working along side of them, he says that Arno Marsh and Carl Fontana were perfect sight readers that never made any mistakes on anything written or improvised.

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

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