Paul Flaherty's total commitment to high-energy free improvisation has kept him deeply buried into the North-East US underground. The alto saxophonist (who later picked up the soprano and tenor sax as well) has been playing privately and self-releasing albums since the late 70s. The increase of interest in free jazz during the 1990s brought him out of his lair, releasing albums on Cadence, Tulpa, Ecstatic Yod, Boxholder, and his own labels (Zaabway, Wet Paint). His highly personal style and brut power can be compared to Peter Brötzmann and Ivo Perelman.
Flaherty was born in Hartford, Connecticut on November 6, 1948. He started to learn the saxophone in school at age 10. He played in school bands for six years and then dropped everything, education and music. His brother's amateur Beatles cover band made him realize that music comes from the heart (passion), not the mind (formal training). At the same time he discovered jazz through the radio and began to improvise over jazz records. He gave his first performance at age 23 and briefly played in John Ciffirelli and Gordon Cohen's bands. But his freeform improv was met with harsh reactions so he retracted to private sessions, looking for the right musicians to play with. In 1978 he cut his first LP In the Midst of Chaos with the group Orange (Barry Greika, Bob Laramie, Glen Peterson). His second album came out for years later and featured two guitarists (Froc Fillipetti and Bill Walach).
The 1980s was not a gentle decade on free improvisers. Besides stints as a street musician, Flaherty kept quiet, supporting himself as a housepainter. But in 1988 he met drummer Randall Colbourne, thanks to a mutual friend. The two hit it off, building a lasting friendship and partnership. Starting in 1989, they released ten albums of frantic improv, as a duet or with musicians like Mike Murray, Richard Downs, Steve Scholz, and Jim Hunt. The first of them, Endangered Species came out on Cadence, which greatly contributed to establish the saxophonist as a player worth keeping an eye on. The late 1990s saw him diversify his entourage. He has cut strong sessions with drummer Chris Corsano (The Hated Music) and trumpeter Greg Kelley (Sannyasi). ~ François Couture, Rovi