Born in Los Angeles, Blythe lived in San Diego, returning to Los Angeles when he was 19 years old. He took up the alto saxophone at the age of nine, playing R&B until his mid-teens when he discovered jazz. In the mid-1960s, Blythe was part of The Underground Musicians and Artists Association (UGMAA), founded by Horace Tapscott, on whose 1969 The Giant Is Awakened he made his recording debut.
After moving to New York in the mid-70s, Blythe worked as a security guard before being offered a place as sideman for Chico Hamilton (75–77). He subsequently played with Gil Evans‘ Orchestra (1976–78), Lester Bowie (1978), Jack DeJohnette (1979) and McCoy Tyner (also 1979). Blythe’s group – John Hicks, Fred Hopkins and Steve McCall – played Carnegie Hall and the Village Vanguard in 1979.
Blythe began to record as a leader in 1977 for the India Navigation label and then for Columbia records from 1978 to 1987. Albums such as The Grip and Metamorphosis (both on the label) offered capable, highly refined jazz fare with a free angle which seemed “out there”. Blythe played on many pivotal albums of the 1980s, among them Jack DeJohnette‘s Special Edition on ECM. Blythe was a member of the all-star jazz group The Leaders and, after the departure of Julius Hemphill, he joined the World Saxophone Quartet. Beginning in 2000 he made recordings on Savant Records which included Exhale (2003) with John Hicks (piano), Bob Stewart (tuba), and Cecil Brooks III (drums).
|1977||The Grip||India Navigation|
|1978||In the Tradition||Columbia|
|1978||Lenox Avenue Breakdown||Columbia|
|1983||Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk||Columbia|
|1984||Put Sunshine in It||Columbia|
|1996||Synergy||In + Out|
|2000||Spirits in the Field||Savant|
- Six by Six (Chiaroscuro, 1977), with Olu Dara, a.o.
- Segments (Ra, 1979), with Olu Dara, David Murray, a.o.
With The Leaders
- Mudfoot (Black Hawk, 1986)
- Out Here Like This (Black Saint, 1987)
- Unforeseen Blessings (Black Saint, 1988)
- Slipping and Sliding (Sound Hills, 1994)
- Spirits Alike (Double Moon, 2006)
- Salutes the Saxophone – Tributes to John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins and Lester Young (In & Out, 1992)
- Stablemates (In & Out, 1993)
- Say Something (In & Out, 1995)
- 3-Ology (Konnex, 1993)
- Ease On (AudioQuest Music, 1993)
With David Eyges and Bruce Ditmas
- Synergy (In & Out, 1997)
- Echoes (Alessa, 2005)
With Joey Baron
- Down Home (Intuition, 1997) with Ron Carter and Bill Frisell
- We’ll Soon Find Out (Intuition, 1999) with Ron Carter and Bill Frisell
With Lester Bowie
With Jack DeJohnette
With Gil Evans
- Gil Evans Live at the Royal Festival Hall London 1978 (RCA, 1979)
- The Rest of Gil Evans Live at the Royal Festival Hall London 1978 (Mole Jazz, 1981)
- Parabola (Horo, 1979)
- Live at the Public Theater, Vol. 1 & 2 (Trio (Japan)/Storyville (Sweden), 1980)
- Priestess (Antilles, 1983)
- Sting and Gil Evans – Strange Fruit (ITM, 1993), three tracks with Blythe rec. 1976 without Sting
With John Fischer
- 6 × 1 = 10 Duos for a New Decade (Circle, 1980)
With Chico Freeman
With Chico Hamilton
With Craig Harris
With Julius Hemphill
With Azar Lawrence
- Bridge into the New Age (Prestige, 1974)
With the Music Revelation Ensemble
With Woody Shaw
With Horace Tapscott
With Gust William Tsilis & Alithea
- Pale Fire (Enja, 1988)
With McCoy Tyner
With the World Saxophone Quartet
- Allmusic biography
- Varga, George (2017-03-28). “Jazz great Arthur Blythe, who grew up in San Diego, is dead at 76”. The San Diego Union-Tribune. San Diego. Retrieved 2017-03-28.
- Bob Young and Al Stankus (1992). Jazz Cooks. Stewart Tabori and Chang. pp. 14–15. ISBN 1-55670-192-6.
- Arthur Blythe Biography