To the uninitiated, the title of this disc might portend bad omens. These four guys have been playing saxophone together for twenty-five yearshow 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 for the WSQ, after numerous tributes and collaborations. Precisely four musicians play on this disc, and they perform only original compositions (David Murray's arrangement of the traditional "Goin' Home" is the sole exception). In this setting, individual musical personalities shine through more clearly than ever. The opening track, Murray's "Suki Suki Now," offers an upbeat bluesy theme with loosely interwoven harmoniesand plenty of space to stretch out. Contrast this version with the one found on Murray's recent Power Quartet recording (Like a Kiss That Never Ends) and the WSQ approach seems much more angular yet grounded. Even during formally coordinated parts, the quartet paints with broad strokes, blurring lines and shifting about to defy expectations. Bluiett's brief "Bits 'n' Pieces" presents darker hues, with greater harmonic and tonal complexity. The improvisation here is open-ended and moody. And with John Purcell's "The New Chapter," the quartet explores sonorities made possible through overdubbing. The WSQ's first experiment of this kind, Purcell's tune explores denser harmonies and allows players the opportunity to improvise over arranged segments. It's not a total success, but the novel approach holds potential for expanding the quartet's palette.
This disc offers special rewards to listeners interested in the possibilities available through pure saxophone sound. With the amazing tonal and timbral range available to these four players, 25th Anniversary presents proof that maturity can indeed be a valuable asset.
Track Listing: Suki Suki Now; Netdown; Bits 'n' Pieces; Goin' Home; Over a Cloud (Sobre una Nube); Stock; The New Chapter.
Personnel: Bluiett: baritone saxophone, contra-alto clarinet; Oliver Lake: alto saxophone; David Murray: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; John Purcell: saxello, alto flute, and Tibetan bells.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.