A 1997 release of note, “The Julius Hemphill Sextet” under the artistic direction of woodwind specialist Marty Ehrlich is a celebration of the late great saxophonist-composer Julius Hemphill and also features Ehrlich performing with his usual arsenal of saxophones, clarinets and flutes. Along with the top-flight sax section of Sam Furnace, Andy Laster, Andrew White, Gene Ghee and Alex Harding, the band take 16 Hemphill compositions under their wing while capturing the spirit of the late artist yet also performing as if these pieces were written specifically for this outing. Throughout, the Sextet maintains a personal if not thoroughly sonorous approach to these pieces gathered from Hemphill’s considerable body of work. Marty Ehrlich’s gorgeous alto sax lines on “What I Know” atop a poignant yet highly disciplined sax section is just one highlight of a recording that is brimming with ingenuity, soul and depth. Yet it all boils down to the blues, as in Hemphill’s “Sojourner’s Blues: Ain’t I A Woman?”. Here, tenor saxophonist Gene Ghee performs gutsy, soul-drenched lines in collaboration with the harmonious sax section who belt out the blues with an even-tempered attack, yet employ multiphonics and razor-sharp choruses with an emphasis on subtle tonalities. “A Bitter Glory” features the lamentable, introspective lines of alto saxophonist Andy Laster that further exemplifies Hemphill’s acute comprehension of traditional jazz forms and ideologies interwoven with his legendary flair for melodic invention.
At Dr. King’s Table is a moving tribute, yet the Julius Hemphill Sextet rapidly develop a distinct persona that is clearly their own, as the band’s certitude and warm sentiment is displayed in resplendent fashion. * * * * ½
Marty Ehrlich; Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Flute, Alto Flute, Clarinet & Bass Clarinet: Sam Furnace; Alto & Soprano Sax: Andy Laster; Alto Sax & Flute: Gene Ghee; Tenor sax: Andrew White; Tenor Sax: Alex Harding; Baritone Sax
New World Recordings website: www.newworldrecordings.org
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition. He was on the band bus the next day as Dorsey's alto sax and clarinet player, and never looked back. He played with great bandleaders such as Freddie Martin, Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, some before he was out of his teens (they had to lie about his age to get him into nightclubs). Many older musicians have told me he was the greatest alto sax player they ever worked with. He was equally great on clarinet and was clarinetist and harmony singer for cocktail jazz pioneers, the Ernie Felice Quartet.
He eventually left the road and settled down, and that's when I came in. By that time, he was, by day, vocal group session leader/player/arranger for classic jingles and commercial music produced in Dallas. At night, he played in society bands, jazz combos and elegant showrooms. Tuesdays were slow in the showrooms, so band members' families got in free, and my mom took me to see him backing such legends as Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Steve and Eydie, and a very old Ella Fitzgerald. Between that, hearing his record collection, growing up around the legendary musicians and singers who were like aunts and uncles to me, and just listening to him practice around the house, filling the neighborhood with incredible jazz sax riffs, I couldn't help becoming that weird kid who was listening to Peggy Lee, Ella and Manhattan Transfer when my classmates were listening to rock, country and soul.
Even though he died before I ever sang professionally, he remains my inspiration and all my CDs are dedicated to him. I like to think that he'd like my music, since it's built on the foundation he handed down to me.