World Saxophone Quartet

Genres: Jazz
Decades: 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s


In 1974, Anthony Braxton recorded a composition for a saxophone quartet on his New York Fall 1974. The other three players involved - Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake and Hamiet Bluiett - must have liked the format as in 1977 they and David Murray formed the World Saxophone Quartet. The proud name was no idle boast: these really were four pre-eminent saxophone voices. All the players are multi-instrumentalists, but in general Hemphill and Lake played alto, Murray tenor and Bluiett baritone saxophone. Wearing tuxedos as a reference to the era of big band sophistication, they became sure-fire festival favourites, starting regular European tours in 1978. They all contributed compositions, though perhaps Hemphill and Bluiett have shown most interest in the quartet’s possibilities, producing thoughtful arrangements that examine ballads, bop and blues with understanding and affection.

Originally located on the jazz avant garde, the quartet’s...

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