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 Taylors 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.