Mars Williams, Saxophone Maestro for Psychedelic Furs, Passes Away at 68: A Pinnacle in Musical Mastery

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Mars Williams, Saxophone Virtuoso for Psychedelic Furs, Dies at 68

When, in 1997, the Chicago Reader wrote that “cult won’t find a saxophone player as busy as Mars Williams in Chicago,” more enduring words were barely spoken. 

Indeed in his 60s, Williams remained a universal, inexhaustible musical presence in this megacity and beyond. His live-line sax sound expanded to fill the space it was in, whether a DIY hole-in-the-wall or a bulging arena musicale with the Psychedelic Furs, with whom he voyaged as lately as last month.

“I don’t know anyone else who can go from playing in a 5,000-person gemstone musical to a 10,000-person Beat Kitchen in one night and take both environments with the same level of seriousness,” saxophonist David Rempis recently told the Tribune. That’s not uncommon; it’s just different. ” 

Mars Williams didn’t make it in November. 20 from ampullary cancer, a rare cancer affecting the area around the small intestine, after being diagnosed nearly a time ago. He was 68. His death was verified to the Tribune by his family Paul Williams. 

One of six children, Mars Williams was born in Elmhurst on May 29, 1955, and grew up near Franklin Park. also “ Marc, ” Williams was a star clarinetist in his academy music program. One summer, however, while playing in a local cover band, he was distracted from the classical education he had planned to pursue at DePaul.

Rather, he immersed himself in the far-out sounds of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, the seminal South Side musical collaborative, and ultimately counted two of its members — Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell — as instructors. 

After a constructive spin out west to Colorado, Mars Williams made his way to New York City in the late 1970s, making plutocrats as a bike runner and trying to break into the live music scene. Also, Williams went by “ Mars, ” inspired by his baby family’s attempts to gasp his name. There, he met his icons Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry and caught the observance of town luminaries like John Zorn.

Mars Williams, Saxophone Maestro for Psychedelic Furs, Passes Away at 68: A Pinnacle in Musical Mastery

Mars Williams is an example of a true saxophone player, someone who enjoys the act of playing the saxophone, and there are not many saxophone players that I can say that about., ” Zorn wrote in the liner notes to “ Eftsoons, ” Williams ’ 1984 brace reader with multi-instrumentalist Hal Russell. 

Mars Williams also kick-started his resemblant career in the gemstone world in New York, playing punk shows at the music club CBGB and picking up gigs by word-of-mouth. That path ultimately led him to the Psychedelic Furs, becoming the band’s longest-serving member after authors Richard and Tim Butler. He played with the Furs from 1983 to 1989, also again from 2005 to the present. 

Guitarist Rich Good, who joined the Furs in the aughts, praised Mars Williams ’ subtly radical twists on familiar solos, indeed on songs he didn’t record with the band. 

“He noway steps down from what the theme of the song is, but he transcends it, takes it to the coming position, ” Good says. 

The fans are a bit blown away when they see these things. Williams was now a ménage a trois, but many of the artists he performed with were Billy Idol, The Killers, Ministry, Dirty Projectors, and Jerry Garcia., to name a many. As a core member of short-lived megahit attractions The Waitresses, Williams ripped each over that band’s most continuing melodies, like “ Christmas belting ” and “ I Know What Boys Like. 

Mars Williams, however, was an experimental free jazz musician in his own right. A slice of the systems he either led or innovated includes the NRG Ensemble, the fabulous improvising unit innovated by Russell; Extraordinary Popular Visions, relatively probably the longest-running free jazz act in the megacity; Witches & Devils, a homage to saxophonist Albert Ayler; and the Chicago Reed Quintet.

Mars Williams, the saxophone player for psychedelic furs and waitresses died at the age of 68

He voyaged internationally with all of these, as well as with lauded free jazz groups run by fellow saxophonists Peter Brötzmann( Brötzmann Tentet) and Ken Vandermark( the Vandermark Five). That’s not to say Mars Williams corralled the numerous stripes he explored — far from it. His rap- meets- jazz- meets- funk group Liquid Soul browsed the acid jazz crest of the ‘”90s to Grammy sun; the band played Bill Clinton’s alternate induction and became a fave of the Chicago Bulls. In XMARSX, another design, 

Mars Williamsbanded with MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer. Yet another Williams concoction, Sonic Soul Sirkus, combined sassy, wide-swinging jazz, hipsterism-hop- hop beats, upstanding acrobats, and, per his website, “ a performing hole bull. ” Mars Williams ’ sax was far and wide, from free jazz systems to the Psychedelic Furs. Also came cancer.) 

“ I ’m embarrassed to say, at one point I had this Art Ensemble percussion set-up with the Waitresses, full of stuff I made and Tibetan monk cornucopia solos, ” Williams told the Tribune. Sober for nearly two decades, Williams offered guidance and support to other musicians living with dependence. 

Celebrated trumpeter Jaimie Branch, who failed last time, formerly credited Williams with getting her clean. Indeed as his rounds of radiation boosted, Williams refused anodynes, stewing another relapse. People know I’m always available. I don’t have to say I’m sober. 

A lot of people in the assiduity know, and I’ll get a call, ” he said. Last June, Rempis started a GoFundMe to help with Williams ’ medical costs. It exceeded its $100,000 thing by a wide periphery — just one measure of the love with which Williams was poured by cults around the globe. 

Proceeds from a forthcoming Nov. 25 benefit show at Metro, headlined by associates from all walks of Williams ’ venturesome musical life, were intended to go toward Williams ’ treatment fund. rather, it’ll celebrate his life, and the music he filled every square inch of it with.

Mars Williams, Saxophone Maestro for Psychedelic Furs, Passes Away at 68: A Pinnacle in Musical Mastery

 “ It’s so contagious, Mars’s love of playing, in every sense of that word, ” says guitarist Steve Marquette, who played and voyaged with Williams in several configurations. Sometimes, the academic language that is used around this music gets in the way of the joy of creating sound. 

However, Mars Williams’ music is no longer about demeaning people. It is a pure and honest expression. Hannah Edgar is a Freelance Poet. ” Music for Mars, ” featuring Liquid Soul, The Joe Marinkin Band, and Jesse De la Peña, with Special Guests Richard Butler, Zachary Alford, and Rich Good, Psychedelic Fuses., Jeff Pall of Dave Matthews Band, Richard Fortus of Ordnance N ’ Roses,

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