Revisiting Paul Horn

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Paul Horn (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

In 1966 I bought my first flute, a cheap $25 Vito from a pawn shop near USC, where I was struggling through my sophomore year. I already knew about Paul Horn, one of the best musicians anywhere and an artist who had an incredibly beautiful sound when he played flute. I bought all his RCA LPs, although it took me a long time to get his great Columbia sides which preceded the RCA recordings. More on that below.

I went to hear his Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts at USC, which melded choral music and jazz. I’d also go hear him whenever he performed; he was a busy studio player. Please see the mini-documentary links below as it’s a neat little film.

I interviewed him years ago on KCRW. Like Paul Winter and the late John Lilly, Paul was interested in whales and their communications and behavior. He told me the story of a pair of orcas in the Vancouver, B.C. aquarium–orcas mate for life–when one of the couple died, the remaining spouse was devastated and depressed. Paul Horn went there every day, playing his alto flute poolside. Eventually the orca came out of its depression and became active again. The controversial new film Blackfish is about keeping orcas in captivity, and again reminds me of how adventurous Paul Horn has been in his long career. He takes his music to many unusual locations.

My signed copy of The Sound of Paul Horn LP (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)
Last night, I listened again to a classic Paul Horn LP, The Sound of Paul Horn, which came out in the early 1960s. It was the same LP I first heard at Bob Cook’s apartment with my surfer friends back around 1962 when I was just 15. I finally bought the LP, long out of print, at a Philadelphia used record shop in 1981. On its cover is the the Miles Davis encomium, “He plays horn the way it should be played”. There’s also a sticker on the front cover that reads, “A New Star on Columbia Records”. Plus, I was able to get it signed by Paul when I had him in for Morning Becomes Eclectic back in the day which says, “Great being on your show! Best Always–Paul Horn”.

Inside Taj Mahal I & II: the album recorded live inside the famous structure (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

My friend, architect Bob Ramirez, once went to the Taj Mahal while on a 7 year adventure of traveling around the world. When he arrived, the guard sadly told him it had closed for the day. Bob was listening to a cassette of Paul Horn Inside the Taj Mahal on his walkman and showed it to the guard, who lit up and said, “I was there when they recorded that!The guard then let him into the grand temple of love, where he was able to spend the next hour all alone in the magnificent structure. Meanwhile, the guard was listening to the famous solo flute recording on Bob’s walkman.

Paul’s great Columbia LPs The Sound of Paul Horn and Profile of a Jazz Musician were reissued on a budget 2 disc set via the Collectibles label. Sadly, his RCA LPs have never been reissued:  Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts, Cycle, Here’s that Rainy Day. Hopefully they will be reissued sometime soon.

Here are some cool videos on Paul Horn called, The Story of a Jazz Musician:

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Also, here’s his beautiful song “Mirage for Miles” from The Sound of Paul Horn:

Finally, here is an overview of Paul Horn, his travels, life journey, and musical philosophy:

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