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 traditional rhythmic voices of piano, bass and drums the horns take on these chores along with the joyful task of melodic and harmonic elaboration. The group’s moniker has never been a strict distillation of their instrumentation considering the integration of members of the wind and clarinet families into the fold along with percussion. But the core remains encapsulated in the sonorities of that horn most often associated with jazz.
The music on hand for the improvisatory jubilee is a cross-section of the quartet’s influences and usual repertoire. Anthemic rhythm and blues marks the opening “Suki Suki Now” while chamber-like counterpoint characterizes the aptly fragmentary “Bit’s n’ Pieces.” The old spiritual “Goin’ Home” further delves into the rich organic soil of blues roots and is a feature for Murray’s soulful tenor. With “Stock” the four take on the sound of a full sax section veering off into a myriad of component groupings through tight, but expansive harmonizing.
In true milestone marking fashion Ashley Kahn’s liners reveal some fascinating secrets of the group’s history and dynamics. One that caught my eye- New Orleans saxophone legend was the original catalyst for the group’s inception. To learn all the colorful details readers will have to acquire the disc. With this record the WSQ has proven once again as all of their past documents have that jazz is not a music beholden to any set instrumentation, that the feeling can be conveyed by any combination of voices properly wielded. Their longevity is cause for celebration to be sure. But in true creative fashion and as the closing incantatory “The New Chapter,” which marks the band’s first application of overdubs, suggests aurally these four veteran players would rather turn their gaze to the future, contemplating what further ground they will be breaking in the years to come.
Justin Time on the web: http://www.justin-time.com
Track Listing: Suki Suki Now/ Net Down/ Bit
Personnel: Bluiett- baritone saxophone, contra-alto clarinet; Oliver Lake- alto saxophone; David Murray- tenor saxopohone, bass clarinet; John Purcell- saxello, alto-flute, Tibetan bells. Recorded: May 19-22, 2000, Montreal.
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.