Hi guys, thought I'd dip in too. K.C. here, Warne's oldest son (Jason is youngest and the Bass Player). I'm in addition to Jack's wonderful website I thought I'd introduce the documentary on Warne, "Warne Marsh: An Improvised Life". It's in production now but you can follow the progress and a lot of hip Warne Marsh discussion on the facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/animprovisedlife
I too feel that Warne was perhaps the most underrated player ever but time will tell. I think looking back people will see a unique and instantly identifiable sound and some of the most gifted jazz improvisation ever to grace the planet. There are many reasons why he wasn't more well known. You have to think of him as a pure artist in the sense that (for better or worse) he put his playing above ALL else. He was driven to a higher calling that I think was both survival mechanism and divine inspiration. In his music the world made sense. He could not, for example, enter into the compromise of his music that would perhaps lead him to be recognized as the monster talent he was. By compromise I mean, he turned down things like The Tonight Show and any musical gig that was not going to allow him to 'live' musically. That's my deeper sense of it as it stands now. These things shift and especially as I undergo the process of documenting his life.
He was both a master of creating Melodic statements that went far beyond the classic jazz soloing (shorter snippets and fragments) but also a rhythmic sensibility that is mind boggling for anyone really in the know about music. To the non-musician I would say, "you're listening to someone like Bach...put some headphones on, close your eyes and really, really listen" What happens then I think is you begin to be taken on a musical ride so unique that when you go back to listen to other music you really realize what a rare and unique talent he was.
Here's a quick story shared with me by a musician who played with Lennie and him. Warne would walk up to play in the studio and create such beautiful improvisations, masterful, melodic creations, that Lennie (and the gang) would then take them and use them to create a new song. So think about that. An improviser who can stand up and create something SO melodic and SO richly and rhythmically complex, that you could take his solo and create and entire set of chord changes and a new song out of it. I dare say there are precious few players that ever lived who possessed that kind of creative musical talent.
Okay, I'm late for work. I do get wound up about all this! Sorry for waxing on so. I'm really happy to converse about the subject. It's been an education doing this documentary and I look forward to sharing my father more with the world.