Sick 'o' standards? Here, the members of the World Saxophone Quartet, who could tackle anything
, jack the repertoire of Jimi Hendrix and render it to their whim.
The WSQ is known for working without a rhythm section, but they use one here on 4 of 8 cuts (including "If 6 was 9"). That decision, coupled with whom they picked, is vital to the overall success of the outing. The ferocious drummer, Gene Lake, on fire throughout, is the real deal when it comes to acid rock. His contributions here would be no less fitting on a Hendrix tribute by Prince or his frequent employer, Dave Fiuczynski. Nepotism's negative connotations (he's Oliver's kid) become immaterial in proportion to the explosiveness of bombs and subtlety of science he drops throughout.
No bassist comes more harmonically and philosophically equipped to deal with the Jimithang than Matt Garrison. Picked by Pat Metheny over a decade ago to play a on "Third Stone from the Sun" from the tribute compilation Stone Free, he's capable of handling Hendrixisms from the bass clef through the treble clef and beyond. Note his uncanny knack for duplicating the aural and emotional effect of those tripped-out two and three-note chord shards that Jimi pioneered on "Little Wing." His unabashedly assertive flirtations with the soloists can be thrilling, as on his countermelody during Murray's solo spot on "Freedom," or his own improvised line against the Dixieland-like improv section on "Machine Gun."
Billy Bang's presence on the latter tune is pure heat, an improvisation linked harmonically by virtue only of context, yet arguably more evocative of Jimi's spirit than any other moment on the record.
Remember, David Murray grew up in Berkeley in the 70's and has spent time onstage with the Grateful Dead, and Hendrix' spirit has perceptibly touched every member of the band , so it's no surprise that the rhythm section can be jettisoned completely. The arrangement for the horn-section treatment of the power chords on "Foxy Lady" epitomizes sophisticated simplicity, while the simultaneous improv that follows exemplifies synchronous pandemonium.
"Hey Joe" demonstrates the sanctified assiduousness that the WSQ brings to any musical situation, with a remarkably straight, superb arrangement. It's their personalized take on lush Ellingtonian melancholia, with only allusions to outside tonalities, never veering out of accessible territory. Murray's blues-drenched command maintains consonance until his ending altissimo birdcall, while Oliver Lake begins with a toe dipped inside but quickly soars outward, his lines drenched in liquid quick Dolphyisms, his sad handoff to Bluiett then flipped into a joyful, yet reflective, noise. Finally, newest member Bruce Williams' plaintive wail on soprano knocks the proceedings out of the park as Bluiett bleats the tune's distinctive bass line, for the first time, a full six minutes in.
Quick, name another sax quartet that's done Jimi at all, let alone this well. Now name a rock artist whose sonic mayhem lends itself better to the WSQ's particular brand of...sonic mayhem.
Personnel: David Murray- tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Bluiett- baritone saxophone; Oliver Lake- alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Bruce Williams- soprano saxophone, alto saxophone; Gene Lake- drums; Matthew Garrison- electric bass; Craig Harris- didgeridoo on "Hear My Train a Comin," - trombone & spoken word on "The Wind Cries Mary;" Billy Bang- violin on "Machine Gun."