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Free jazz trumpeter with Taylor, Lyonsby Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2006 Todd S. Jenkins
Trumpeter Raphe Malik, a fixture in the bands of Cecil Taylor and Jimmy Lyons during the 1970s and 80s, has died of a prolonged illness. He had undergone a liver transplant a year ago but continued to suffer ill health up until his death on March 8, 2006. He was 57 years old.
Malik was born Laurence Mazel in Cambridge, Massachusetts on November 1, 1948. He was a regional tennis champion in high school but foresaw a career in music for himself. Mazel attended UMass – Amherst in the late 1960s, then spent some time checking out the free-jazz scene in Paris before going to Ohio’s Antioch College. There his fate was sealed, as he studied under three men who would become longtime friends and associates: Cecil Taylor, Jimmy Lyons and Andrew Cyrille. After graduation he moved to New York, where he continued to work with his former professors at, among other things, a 1974 Carnegie Hall performance. It was then that he set Laurence Mazel aside and took on the stage name, Raphe Malik.
Malik’s first appearance on a recording came in 1976, on Taylor’s Dark Unto Themselves. Over the next several years Malik toured with Taylor and made three more albums with the pianist: Three Phasis, Cecil Taylor Unit, and One Too Many Salty Swift and Not Goodbye, all of which are considered high points of Taylor’s large catalog. Malik’s bold yet melodic approach was an excellent complement to altoist Lyons and violinist Ramsey Ameen. The trumpeter also continued to work with Lyons outside the Taylor unit (Wee Sneezawee, 1983), as well as pianist Joel Futterman (Berlin Images, To the Edge) and saxophonist Glenn Spearman (Free Worlds). He soon became one of the premier trumpeters in American free jazz.
Besides his formidable trumpet talents, Malik was also a respectable composer and producer. However, the 1980s brought a denouement in his career. He found regular work as a tilesetter while leading his own quintet in the Boston area. In 1992 his fortunes improved, beginning with his marriage to Marguerite Serkin. The couple moved to Vermont, where Malik built the family home and began teaching at Bennington College.
In 1994 Malik recorded Sirens Sweet and Slow for the small Outsounds label, reestablishing his reputation in the free-jazz community. He worked occasionally with Dennis Warren’s Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble (Very Live; Watch Out!). William Parker, Alan Silva, Sabir Mateen, and avant-garde singer Syd Straw also employed the trumpeter at times. In 1995 he worked with the Rova Saxophone Quartet on a revisitation of John Coltrane’s Ascension. In 1997 Malik was signed to the upstart Eremite label and recorded three albums there as a leader (The Short Form; ConSequences; Companions). He was also a key player for Boxholder, releasing Storyline, Looking East: A Suite in Three Parts and Last Set: Live at the 1369 Jazz Club. Other labels for which he recorded include FMP, Mapleshade and Le Systeme. Malik’s last recording before the advance of his illness was the excellent Sympathy (Boxholder), with drummer Donald Robinson and Joe McPhee on soprano sax and pocket trumpet.
Raphe Malik is survived by his wife, Marguerite Mazel, of Guilford, Vermont; daughter Lena; two sons, Miles and Joel; and sister Marjorie Hecht of Leesburg, Va. Donations can be made in Mr. Mazel's memory to the Musician's Emergency Fund in New York or the Morningside Shelter in Brattleboro, Vermont.
Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.