Paul Horn: 1930–2014
The classical-turned-jazz flutist, TM teacher, and creator of New Age music, died June 29, 2014, at age 84 after a brief illness.
by Peter Westbrook
Jazz flutist Paul Horn—a friend, an associate, and an exceptional human being—had a remarkable career as a musician, spanning five decades, 50 albums, and five Grammy nominations. He was one of the earliest jazz musicians to start out with a sound classical training, majoring in clarinet at the Oberlin Conservatory and at the Manhattan School of Music, where he added a minor in flute. After a stint in the army, Paul worked with the experimental Sauter-Finegan Big Band in New York and later replaced Buddy Collette in the high-profile Chico Hamilton Quintet, both gigs that developed his skills as a multi-instrumentalist, requiring fluency on flute, piccolo, clarinet, and various saxophones.
By 1958, however, Paul decided it was time for him to fulfill his dream to “travel to Hollywood and do studio work.” In Los Angeles he worked with a Who’s Who of jazz and popular artists that included Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Quincy
Jones, Joni Mitchell, and Nat King Cole, and brought him on-screen appearances in The Sweet Smell of Success and The Rat Race. He also formed a quintet and continued the series of recordings under his own name that began while he was still with Chico Hamilton, culminating in 1965’s Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts, with arrangements by Lalo Schifrin, which earned two Grammy awards. Paul’s work was recognized in the Down Beat, Playboy, and Metronome jazz polls and he was the subject of David Wolper’s TV documentary The Story of a Jazz Musician.
By the mid-1960s, however, Paul found his life becoming less and less satisfying. He began to investigate spiritual teachings which, in that era’s Southern California, were in plentiful supply. Friends introduced him to Transcendental Meditation and its founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In December 1966 Paul headed to India where he spent four months with Maharishi, learning to become one of the first group of teachers of TM in the United States. Back in the U.S., he resumed his studio career but soon left Los Angeles, remarried, and moved to Victoria, British Columbia.
On a second trip to India, Paul discovered that he was able to get inside the Taj Mahal late at night where he recorded his flute improvisations reverberating around the great marble mausoleum, with its 28-second delay. Although his recordings were not intended as a commercial enterprise, Epic Records purchased and released them on the album Inside. It sold more than three quarters of a million copies, one of the most popular recordings ever made by a jazz flutist.
Inside was followed by a another series of albums: Inside II, Inside The Great Pyramid, Inside The Great Cathedral, Inside Russia, China, and Traveler, which earned another Grammy nomination in 1988. With the success of these and other recordings came the freedom to pursue further projects: an 18-week series of shows on Canadian TV; extensive goodwill tours of Russia and China; interactions with musicians from diverse cultures and traditions; and his own record label Golden Flute Records. By the time Paul completed his discography, he had reinvented the role of the flute in jazz and virtually launched two new genres—world music and New Age music.
The last time I met Paul was at a music conference at Maharishi University of Management in Iowa in 2011. He was with his wife, Canadian singer and songwriter Ann Mortifee. Their 10-year marriage brought Paul great happiness and fulfillment as they set about unifying and healing through music together. (Mortifee produced a short film about Paul and his music that can be found on YouTube, along with other clips, samples, and interviews. Other clips can be found at paulhornmusic.com.) Paul’s passing is a great loss to the flute community. He will be missed in every corner of the world.
Peter Westbrook is chair of the NFA’s World Music Committee, editor-in-chief of flutejournal.com, and author of The Flute in Jazz: Window on World Music, which includes an interview with Paul Horn. See: www.fluteinjazz.com
For multiple Paul Horn videos on You Tube see: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaJQCv4raJDQOSgpchC7psw
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