Obituary: Paul Horn, 84; his flute playing was heard around the world

Former Victoria resident Paul Horn, who played alongside Frank Sinatra and meditated with the Beatles, has died.

Horn died at his condominium in Vancouver on June 29 after a brief illness, his family said.

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He was 84.

Details of his illness are being kept private at his request. “Despite the grief that is expected, we’re all very much at ease with the fact that he passed on his own terms, the way he wanted to,” son Marlen Horn said Wednesday.

Paul Horn was born in New York and was a star on flute, clarinet and saxophone. He joined Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington for concert tours and recording sessions. He was also part of the development of Transcendental Meditation in the United States after being taught by its creator, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Horn was studying with the maharishi in India when the Beatles arrived to do the same in 1968. His trips to India to study meditation were major factors in his evolution, son Robin Horn said. “We’d talk when I was a boy about metaphors for life. He really thought on those terms. He was a really deep thinker and a very caring father.”

His two passions in life were combined on 1968’s Inside the Taj Mahal and 1976’s Inside the Great Pyramid. Both albums were true to their names, recorded in India’s Taj Mahal and in Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza. They are considered hallmarks of New Age music.

Horn also broke ground by touring China and the Soviet Union, and by playing his flute for recordings at the former Sealand of the Pacific in Oak Bay, aided by the sounds of Haida, a killer whale.

As a teen, he played the jazz clubs of Washington, D.C. Demand for his talent took him from New York to California, where he remained through the 1960s. His home in the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles, where songwriter Carole King and Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz were neighbours, was a hub of activity until a 1969 tour with folk singer Donovan brought Horn to Vancouver.

During a day off from that tour, he travelled to Victoria, which would become home base for the Horn family in 1970. The Grammy Award winner would maintain a home here until the 2000s, when he began spending part of his year in Tucson, Arizona.

He was a frequent instructor at the Victoria Conservatory of Music Summer Jazz Workshop, where he taught musicians as young as 14.

“He was a really caring man, he was interested in people, and he was encouraging for musicians,” said Saltspring Island folk singer Valdy Horsdal, a longtime friend. “He was such a brilliant player, but he was open to people who were just learning.”

Nearly a decade ago, Horn began a relationship with singer-songwriter Ann Mortifee; they were married within a year. They met in 1973 when Horn was hosting The Paul Horn Show on CTV. The couple spent time at Horn’s home in Tucson and Mortifee’s on Cortes Island.

“His marriage to and relationship with Ann was the best part of his life,” Marlen Horn said. “Those last 10 years, I’ve never seen a deeper, more dedicated relationship between two people.”

Paul Horn is survived by his wife, Ann Mortifee, sons Marlen and Robin, stepson Devon Mortifee, grandchildren Brittany, Tyler, Jonah and Ana, and daughters-in-law Robin, Alison and Beth.

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