Paul Kantner, the Jefferson Airplane guitarist, songwriter and fixture of the San Francisco '60s rock scene, died Thursday of septic shock and organ failure, according to his publicist, who confirmed the news with the San Francisco Chronicle. He was 74.

"The music community has lost a true icon, and we share our deepest condolences with Paul's family and friends," wrote Recording Academy President Neil Portnow in a statement released Thursday.

Kantner's sound formed the backbone of Jefferson Airplane, a band best known for hits like "White Rabbit" and "Somebody To Love."

He co-founded the group with Marty Balin at the onset of the San Francisco hippie movement. Soon after releasing their debut album, "The Jefferson Airplane Takes Off" in 1966, they recruited singer Grace Slick to add powerhouse vocals to their acid-tripping rock sounds.

Kantner and Slick re-formed the group as Jefferson Starship in 1974, after the band was derailed in its prime by infighting and legal troubles.

Kantner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with Jefferson Airplane in 1996.

Kantner, with Jefferson Starship, was to play the Medina Entertainment Center on Friday night. A representative at the venue said the show likely will still go on without Starship, but with the night's scheduled headliners Blue Oyster Cult. (An item about the concert on Page E4 of today's paper went to press before the news of Kantner's death was made public.)

Frost cancels SPCO engagements

Swedish clarinetist Martin Frost has canceled his appearances with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for the remainder of the season. Frost, named one of the SPCO's artistic partners in November, 2014, is still suffering from Meniere's disease — an inner-ear disorder that causes vertigo and tinnitus. The illness forced Frost to cancel appearances last fall with the orchestra, both in St. Paul and during an Asian tour. "It's important for him to focus on his recovery right now," said Kyu-Young Kim, the SPCO's artistic director. French pianist David Fray will sub for Frost Feb. 26-28, performing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 24. The following weekend, violinist Gil Shaham, a frequent soloist with the SPCO, will play Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor.

Graydon Royce

Blanchett to make Broadway debut

Cate Blanchett will make her Broadway debut next winter in Anton Chekhov's first — and long-forgotten — play. The Oscar winner and Academy Award nominee this year for "Carol" will star in "The Present" opposite Richard Roxburgh in the production that originated at the Sydney Theatre Company last summer. It is adapted by Andrew Upton, Blanchett's playwright husband. It will be directed by John Crowley, who directed the film "Brooklyn" and "A Behanding in Spokane" on Broadway. "The Present," also known as "Platonov," centers on Anna Petrovna, who holds a party for her 40th birthday that includes an uncomfortably mismatched set of characters. Chekhov wrote it as a young medical student in the 1880s but it went nowhere and the playwright put it aside. It was unearthed in a Moscow bank vault in 1920, 16 years after his death.

news services