Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre: Saxophonist and composer who fought drug problems to forge an acclaimed career in jazz's black avant-garde


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The Independent Online

The prison house is a tough school but it saved the young Maurice McIntyre and reconnected him with music. In the late 1960s McIntyre became one of the most passionate and articulate spokesmen of the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and an exponent of fiery but spacious "spirit jazz".

He described the AACM's mission, and his own, in strikingly dramatic terms. The new black avant-garde, he said, was "the stranded particle, the isolated island of the whole", at war with, but also to some degree still dependent on, the confused normality of the mainstream political and cultural system. It was this vision that fuelled his work.

McIntyre was born into a well-educated family in Clarksville, Arkansas, in 1936 and was raised in Chicago, where he attended Roosevelt University. He took up the saxophone in childhood but seems to have set it aside for a time.

He was jailed for drug offences and served his sentence in Lexington, Kentucky, alongside the pianist and composer Tadd Dameron, a major figure in bebop. On his release McIntyre made contact with the tutelary co-founder of AACM, Muhal Richard Abrams, and began to experiment with a form of jazz that was always at least part-ritual. His record Humility In The Light of the Creator was released on the Delmark label in 1969, followed by the fine Forces and Blessings. He adopted the name Kalaparush Ahra Difda, but later reverted an extended version of his birth name. He worked at Karl Berger's Creative Music Studio for a time in the 1970s, recording further material for the European Black Saint label, but it was as a teacher, guru and community-based musician that McIntyre made his greatest impact.

Intermittent drug use harmed his career, but McIntyre returned strongly in the first decade of the new century with further explorations that combined avant-garde saxophone playing and roots music. Some of his later work demands a sympathetic ear to extract much pleasure, but McIntyre was not primarily interested in the commodification of music as entertainment. Recent sightings had him working as a street musician, preparing new material in the midst of the community, which is where he felt most comfortable. He is survived by his partner Antoinette Bell, by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


Maurice Benford McIntyre (Kalaparush Ahrah Difda and Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre), saxophonist and composer: born Clarksville, Arkansas 24 March 1936; partner to Antoinette Bell (one daughter); died Bronx, New York 9 November 2013.