Marty Ehrlich has spent over 40 years at the center of New York’s creative improvised music scene. His musical career began in St. Louis, Missouri, performing and recording with the Human Arts Ensemble in the early 1970s while still in high school, before attending the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, under the tutelage of George Russell, Jaki Byard, Gunther Schuller, and Joseph Allard. Since arriving in New York after graduating in 1977, the woodwind multi-instrumentalist has recorded over thirty albums worth of his compositions for a variety of ensembles, including his own Dark Woods Ensemble, Traveler’s Tales Quartet, Rites Quartet, Marty Ehrlich Large Ensemble, and numerous other collaborative groups.
Blessed with an exceedingly lyrical tone and sense of phrasing, Ehrlich has performed, toured, and recorded with a long list of luminaries, including but not limited to, Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, and John Carter, as well as collaborating with contemporaries like Ray Anderson, Bobby Previte, and John Zorn. He has also performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony, the New York City Opera, and the Jose Limón and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane dance companies.
In addition to working extensively with Julius Hemphill – becoming musical director of Hemphill’s Sextet after his passing in 1996 – Ehrlich is chief researcher for the Julius Hemphill Archive at NYU, where he continues his work presenting and preserving Hemphill’s music. I interviewed Ehrlich in the winter of 2021, prior to the release of The Boye’ Multi-National Crusade For Harmony, the 7-CD collection he curated for New World. The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound’s Ehrlich-conducted recording of Abrams’ final album-length composition, Soundpath, had been recently issued on Clean Feed.