Warne Marsh: Dec. 1975

Whenever I put on a Warne Marsh recording, I don’t think of him as a jazz musician. Rather, I imagine the tenor saxophonist as an architect and that I’m looking at his designs rather than listening to musical notes. It’s hard to explain. For me, when Marsh plays, I hear a firm grasp on geometric structure. There’s a bold cubist feel to his improvisation that builds. Which is why I like to love looking at architecture when I listen to him.

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One of Marsh’s finest recordings from the 1970s is Warne Marsh: The Unissued 1975 Copenhagen Studio Recordings. Recorded on Dec. 28, 1975 and released in 2014, the album features Warne Marsh (ts), Dave Cliff (g), Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen (b) and Alan Levitt (d). The 11 tracks were recorded at a Copenhagen studio for the Storyville label. The tracks include mostly standards—After You’ve Gone, The Song Is You, It’s You Or No One, God Bless the Child, The Way You Look Tonight, Without a Song, You Don’t Know What Love Is and Be My Love. The exceptions are Blues in G Flat and Lennie-Bird.

All are great modernist architectural works. As you listen to the track below from the album, here are great buildings from the period to view—but do so emotionally. Let the beauty of the shapes and design enter your consciousness:

Minoru Yamasaki’s Twin Towers in New York (1973)…


Henry Cobb’s John Hancock Tower in Boston (1976)…

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Richard Meier’s Douglas House in Harbor Springs, Mich. (1973)…

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Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s Penzoil Place in Houston (1975)…


Roche-Dinkeloo’s U. N. Plaza in New York (1975)…

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Hugh Stubbins’ Citicorp Center in New York (1978) [Photo by Marc Myers]…

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As you look at these buildings and listen to Marsh develop his solos, imagine he’s creating lengthy, seamless geometric statements that rely more on volume and total impact from every angle than mere bursts of songbook interpretation and excitement. Once you feel the parallel, you’ll understand the connection I feel between the geometric lightness of Marsh’s dry, cool jazz and modern architecture’s sculptural simplicity from roughly the same period.

JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Warne Marsh: The Unissued 1975 Copenhagen Studio Recordings (Storyville) here.

JazzWax clip: Here’s The Song Is You

The Song Is You

A special thanks to Jonathan Horwich.