Long recognized as an avant-garde fixture with creativity up the wazoo, the World Saxophone Quartet has a language all its own. Its four-part harmony flows worlds apart from the norm while its improvised antics reach right out into your soul and grab hold. The quartet's albums can usually be ranked at the top before you even take a listen because you know that emotions are going to be on fire.
As a departure from the World Saxophone Quartet's usual performance, Political Blues allows its members to communicate with a broader audience in terms that everybody can appreciate. They've ...read more
Political conscience occupies a special place in the quintessence of modern jazz, fueling, in its most heated moments, the stuff of blunt insurrection. It remains to be seen whether Political Blues, the most recent offering by the World Saxophone Quartet, occupies the same territory as those few moments of musical activism that have not only informed but also crucially affected the practice of revolution--Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite (Candid, 1960) is one, Charlie Haden's first Liberation Music Orchestra (Impulse!, 1969) is another. Regardless, the WSQ is no quiet voice, and Political Blues is no failing salvo. This is the fierce, ...read more
With its glory days more than arguably behind it, the WSQ has become something of a powerhouse repertory band. Beginning in 1977, the four saxophonists (then Hamiet Bluiett, Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake, and David Murray) released seven remarkable albums in eight years before finding a second calling as an interpreting ensemble with 1986's brilliant Plays Duke Ellington. They followed that with an R&B set and a meeting with African drums; good albums both, but they marked the loss of Hemphill and the beginning of a rotating fourth chair, with Arthur Blythe, James Spaulding, Eric Person, John Purcell, and now Bruce ...read more
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 ...read more
The muscularity and imposing sound of the World Saxophone Quartet can be overwhelming to neophytes. Practiced listeners welcome WSQ's stately resonance and unpretentious tenor. And although the second alto chair vacated by the departure and passing of the late Julius Hemphill has evolved, a permanent substitute seems remote. The seasoned Oliver Lake, established Hamiett Bluiett, and dynamic David Murray (unedited and in their own words) continue to expand the lore of (after more than a quartet of a century) what has become a jazz institution.
All About Jazz: Why a Jimi Hendrix tribute?
Oliver Lake: Well, actually, it wasn't totally ...read more
The World Saxophone Quartet has never sounded better. It’s all about the music. With their eighth Justin Time album, they’ve rediscovered a source that has inspired generations. Although Jimi Hendrix passed in 1970, his music has stayed with us through thick and thin. How could we have ever survived Vietnam without his music? Two Gulf wars and numerous tragedies, both home and abroad, have left their mark on our existence. Through it all, several generations have been fortunate to have the Jimi Hendrix Experience on their side.
Bluiett, who worked with Charles Mingus in the early 1970s, ...read more
Let's be up front: the World Saxophone Quartet has never made a bad record. Sure, some listeners might not appreciate the unbridled energy that marks much of their work--but as for the rest, there are no low points. On the other hand, no single WSQ record stands out above their twenty-some others. Certainly that's a catch most bands would gladly aspire to achieve, but it also presents a challenge when the group steps forward to document a new performance. The latest WSQ effort, Steppenwolf, offers a refreshing contrast to much of the quartet's studio work: it documents a live performance. ...read more
Extended pieces make up most of the program presented here by the World Saxophone Quartet in a live Chicago appearance from 1999. In front of an audience, the foursome is loose and natural; what you see is what you get.
Since 1976, this ensemble has taken its alluring persona on the road in chamber jazz fashion with great success. Their product is always a treat. When Julius Hemphill passed in 1995 and John Purcell joined the unit, things kept on rolling smoothly. To our relief, the quartet has extended its horizons and maintained its high level of quality. ...read more
Dressed to the nines in white tuxedos for the cover photo of this disc the WSQ obviously takes its quarter-century anniversary seriously. As they should, the four saxophonists have been something of an institution since their inception in 1976. Rolling the years forward from their inaugural run the group has undergone the requisite changes and growing pains. Original member Julius Hemphill is no longer with us, replaced some years back by Purcell, but the crux and focus of the band remains essentially the same, layered saxophonic interplay borne of jazz music’s beginnings as polyphonic street music. In the absence of ...read more
To the uninitiated, the title of this disc might portend bad omens. These four guys have been playing saxophone together for twenty-five years--how can they possibly still be interesting? Of course, that question is answered most affirmatively after a few minutes of listening, but it still deserves comment. With a combined eight decades of shared experience, the members of the WSQ have an amazing degree of cohesion. They constantly teeter on the balance between arranged parts and full-on improvisation, knowing intuitively when to hold back and when to unleash their collective energy.
25th Anniversary also marks a return to fundamentals ...read more
On 1998's Selim Sivad, the members of the WSQ devote themselves to the memory and spirit of jazz master Miles Davis. They continue to incorporate African drums, this time also including Davis alumnus drummer/pianist Jack DeJohnette. Compared to the earlier WSQ+drums records, Selim Sivad includes a greater variety of improvisational approaches. While Seven Steps to Heaven" receives a tight percussion-rich interpretation, The Road to Nefertiti" more openly explores space and time, and Tutu" gets the funky drummer treatment from DeJohnette.
The expanded quartet expresses a clear appreciation for the wide range of styles explored by Miles Davis during his career, ...read more
Requiem for Julius dedicates itself to the memory of founding WSQ member Julius Hemphill (here again replaced by John Purcell). The quartet stands alone--without its recent companion, African drums--and invokes its remarkable ability to trade off between tight arrangements and free improvisation. In fact, it's often hard to tell where the arrangements leave off and the improvisation begins. Despite the quarter century of musicianship shared between the other three founding members, Purcell plays with maturity and sensitivity, fitting right in.
The general feel of the record is reflective and downtempo, making generous use of space, although--as always--there are exceptions. The ...read more
The WSQ, which has performed as a unit since '76, has generated a mountain of excellent recordings on the Black Saint and Elektra labels. In late '95, the same year that founding member Julius Hemphill died, the quartet recorded its first Justin Time record with John Purcell taking Hemphill's place. As a result of Purcell joining the group, the other members were freed to play other instruments outside the earlier paradigm of two altos, a tenor, and a baritone sax.
Four Now also distinguishes itself by the addition of three African drummer/vocalists who first appeared on the '91 Nonesuch album ...read more
Requiem For Julius is a truly exceptional homage to the late great saxophonist/composer and cofounder of the World Saxophone Quartet" - Julius Hemphill and may indeed represent one of the finest WSQ" recordings in recent years. From the opening moments of famed drummer/composer Jack DeJohnette's rhythmically and melodically enticing composition, Ebony" along with the subtle intricacies and complex big band style horn charts found on All Praise" it becomes apparent that WSQ" is performing within the classic framework and spirited approach witnessed on earlier releases. Shrewd soloing and multi-textural charts abound amid heart rendering passages, and the booming foundations set ...read more
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