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Lyrical Member of the Avant-GardeCopyright © 2001The Scotsman, 2001
Makanda (Ken) McIntyre was best known for his work with saxophonist Eric Dolphy on the album Looking Ahead in 1960, and if that association led to his being bracketed with Dolphy in terms of style and approach, he was a significant musician in his own right. He played a veritable arsenal of wind instruments, taking in several of the saxophones (with alto as his favoured horn), clarinet, bass clarinet, and the much less usual (in jazz at any rate) oboe and bassoon.
He was born Kenneth Arthur McIntyre in Boston, but changed his first name to Makanda in the early 1990s, and was known thereafter as Makanda K. McIntyre. The name change came about during a visit to Zimbabwe, when a stranger handed him a piece of paper with that word (meaning "many skins") written on it.
He studied piano as his first instrument, then turned to alto saxophone, and was greatly influenced in the first instance by Charlie Parker. He served in the army, where he continued to play in jazz groups, then studied at Boston Conservatory, graduating BA in 1958 and MA in 1959. He earned a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts in 1975.
McIntyre was closely allied with the musicians of the emerging avant-garde movement of the early 1960s, variously know as free jazz or simply "the new thing", although his own lyrical, imaginative playing always revealed an affinity with more mainstream jazz styles, as well as a sharp sense of humour. Looking Ahead was his debut album, and he recorded further sessions in the early 1960s, including Way, Way Out (which featured a string section) and Year of The Iron Sheep, with a quartet which include pianist Jaki Byard.
He played on Cecil Taylor's ground-breaking Unit Structures session in 1966, but was unable to secure a full living from playing jazz, and also took up teaching, initially in the public school system, and subsequently as a lecturer and professor of music.
He taught at several colleges, including Wesleyan University, Smith College, Fordham University, the New School, and the State University at Old Westbury, N.Y., where he was the founder and chairman of the American music, dance and theater program, and where he became professor emeritus in 1995. He retired from that post in 1996, but continued to teach, both privately and at the New School, until last year.
He continued to perform at jazz festivals and to record occasional albums, including a number of discs for the Copenhagen-based Steeplechase label in the 1970s. He performed and recorded with other leaders as well, including Beaver Harris's 360 Degree Music Experience in 1979, trombonist Craig Harris in 1983, and Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra in 1990.
He developed a solo performance programme in the late-1990s, using a battery of his wind instruments, and also played in duos with bassist Wilber Morris. He had recorded a new album, A New Beginning, which is scheduled for posthumous release on the Passin' Thru label.
He is survived by his wife, Joy, two sons from a previous marriage, and two grandchildren.