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Paul Horn


Paul Horn’s illustrious career has spanned five decades, fifty albums, five nominations for a Grammy, with his Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts for RCA Victor, winning two Grammy Awards in 1965. He has studied in the Himalayas, taught meditation, led workshops and played his golden flute to millions throughout the world, either as a solo artist or with the likes of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Nat Kin Cole, Tony Bennett, Buddy Rich, Chick Corea, Donovan, Quincy Jones and Ravi Shankar. He is known as the ‘Father of New Age Music’ for his seminal album, Inside the Taj Mahal.

Early Years:

Paul Horn was born on March 17, 1930 in New York. His mother was the singer, pianist and recording artist, Frances Sper. She performed in her own radio show in NY and worked with Irving Berlin as an accompanist. His father, a salesman by trade, always supported Paul’s passion for music. A gifted musician from birth, Paul played piano by age four, switched to the clarinet at ten, followed by the saxophone two years later. In his teen years, he cut his teeth on jazz in small clubs in Washington, DC. Schooled in the classical tradition, he attended The Oberlin Conservatory of Music where he added flute to his other woodwinds. He later received his Masters Degree at The Manhattan School of Music in NY.
After a three-year stint in the military, where Paul began to master the flute, he joined the Sauter-Finegan Big Band in New York. Both Sauter and Finegan were talented composers who were blazing their own musical trail, something Paul would do in the years to come.

Los Angeles Years:

While New York was a buzz, California and the burgeoning jazz scene there called Paul to the other side of the country to join the famed Chico Hamilton Quintet. He arrived in Los Angeles in the fall of 1956. Hollywood was becoming not only the center of the movie industry but television as well. Paul freelanced in the Hollywood studios, was on staff with the NBC orchestra and started the first of his two successful jazz units, The Paul Horn Four and The Paul Horn Quintet.
Here he began a long-standing association and friendship with Tony Bennett, appearing on television specials and on concert tours as his featured guest. It was during this same era that Paul spent a significant amount of time with Miles Davis. Davis was exploring a type of jazz that was very different than the be-bop and cool jazz of the day. The scales that Davis was experimenting with, which became known as Modal jazz, were more open-ended and gave musicians a greater sense of freedom. This was to have a profound effect on Horns playing in the years to come.
During this period in LA, Paul was the subject of David Wolpers’ documentary, The Story of a Jazz Musician. He acted in two films, The Sweet Smell of Success and The Rat Race, making Tony Curtis a life long friend. He played live and in the studio with the legendary Frank Sinatra. In 1964, Horn with his quintet recorded the first Jazz Mass, composed and arranged for orchestra and chorus by Lalo Schifrin. The album received two Grammy Awards.

India and Beyond:

As Paul had been inspired musically by the likes of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and later by modern masters such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, Larry Durrell, the main figure in Somerset Maugham’s novel of spiritual exploration, The Razor’s Edge, catalyzed his quest for inner peace and connection with the Great Mystery.
In spite of the many acknowledgements he was receiving in LA, Paul felt a hunger for deeper meaning in his life. Longing for something that the trappings of success could not supply, Paul began to practice Transcendental Meditation. It was there in LA that he first met its’ founder, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who invited him to come to India on a teacher training course. Paul packed his bags and headed for India in December of 1966.
The months he spent in the Himalayas changed Horns’ life forever. He would accompany the Maharishi to nearby villages and play his flute before the Maharishi would talk. Paul eventually became one of the first twelve teachers of Transcendental Meditation in the United States,
When he returned to LA, he assisted Jerry Jarvis in furthering the first Students International Meditation Society. He arranged for the Maharishi to be a guest on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show, to be on the cover of Look Magazine, as well as in many other publications. He convinced 4 Star Productions to do a documentary on the then unknown Yogi at his ashram in the Himalayas. He returned to India in 1968 as Producer. The Beatles and Donovan were at the ashram at the time.
One magic evening during a shoot for the film in Agra, Paul played his flute inside the dome of the famous Taj Mahal. His spontaneous improvisations would unexpectedly usher in an era of contemplative and meditative sounds for the children of the sixties and beyond.
Inside the Taj Mahal became the seminal recording that heralded in a whole new genre of music, which came to be known as New Age Music and earned Paul the honour of being named throughout the world, the Father of New Age Music.
As a result of this recording, Horn soon passed many of his more well-known jazz contemporaries in record sales, a feat which totally confounded most critics of the day. While he still deeply loved jazz, Horn never looked back. He sought out other sacred spaces around the planet, from Egypt, Russia, China and Tibet to the great canyons of the Southwest, to sound his own personal note into the geometry of the divine. He led transformational workshops and became a central figure in the modern transcendental movement. He was given his own national weekly TV show in Canada, The Paul Horn Show, and later released another Grammy nominated recording, Traveler, with Christopher Hedge.
Paul Horn is often called ‘The Traveler’. His golden flute has acted as a magnetic needle, pointing him toward the true north of his musical discoveries and spiritual explorations.