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Breath of Life

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Album Review

This is the second World Saxophone Quartet disc to feature alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe (who replaced Julius Hemphill) and the first to feature a full rhythm section including bass, piano, and organ. Going a step further from the previous year's experiment with African drums on Metamorphosis, Breath of Life continues to find the sax quartet stretching the boundaries associated with its a cappella approach of the past. Included on its final release for the Elektra Nonesuch label are rhythm & blues-influenced originals by David Murray, Oliver Lake, and Hamiet Bluiett. The Quartet also pays tribute to Ray Charles, Little Willie John, and James Brown on "You Don't Know Me" and "Suffering With the Blues," featuring gospel-inspired performances by Fontella Bass (vocals), Donald Smith (organ), and Amina Claudine Myers (piano and organ).


Formed: 1977

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Probably the first of several saxophone-only ensembles who proliferated in jazz after 1975, the WSQ is unquestionably the most commercially (and, arguably, the most creatively) successful. Of course, commercial success is a relative thing in jazz, especially when one is speaking of an avant-garde group. But unlike most free jazz artists, the WSQ managed to attract an audience of significant size; large enough to have garnered a major-label record deal in the '80s, an almost unheard-of occurrence...
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Breath of Life, World Saxophone Quartet
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