Monday, August 31, 2015

World Saxophone Quartet: W.S.Q.

This amazing collective of St. Louis-bred musicians recorded their third album, and second release with the Italian Black Saint label, in March 1980.  The eight pieces, with contributions from all four members, display their dazzling dexterity, strong sense of rhythm, complex harmonic interplay, and daring approaches to composition to great effect.

Over time, altoist and tenorist Julius Hemphill received more attention for his songwriting and it is true that his remarkable gift for creating compelling and complicated pieces were on full display with tracks like "Connections" and "Pillars Latino."  A centerpiece of this recording is the four-part suite, "Suite Music" by Hamiet Bluiett.  Lake's "Sound Light" is also highly effective, as is Murray's closer, "Fast Life."

Really, though, what made this great group so memorable was their mesmerizing way of melding their talents on several instruments, including clarinets, along with the range of saxes, to develop highly original approaches to saxophone-based music that didn't need standard rhythm instruments (piano, bass, drums.)

It took a real sense of synergy, a downshift of ego, and a commitment to truel collaboration that made the World Saxophone Quartet a truly special ensemble.  W.S.Q. is an especially strong release from one of the finest jazz groups of the 70s and 80s.

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