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Album Review

During the mid- and late '70s, countless duo recordings were released by members of the jazz avant-garde. While the driving force behind this strategy was economic (two could travel much more cheaply than six or more), this necessity also forced the artists to construct new and challenging strategies for playing, especially when the combination of instruments was less than traditional. At the time of this recording, Hemphill and Lake already formed half of the World Saxophone Quartet, but Buster Bee allows them an unusual intimacy that fosters some lovely playing and interaction. They stick to the higher reeds (and flutes), imbuing the pieces with an airy quality as they effortlessly interweave lines and ideas. All of the tracks are composed (though allowing for substantial improvisation) and are a pleasingly varied bunch, from the jaunty title track to the achingly elegiac "Fertility." Both players are near the top of their game, with subtle liquid phrasing giving way to impassioned cries on a moment's notice. Recommended.

Biography

Born: 24 January 1938 in Fort Worth, TX

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Hemphill was best known for his work with the World Saxophone Quartet — he was arguably the band's most distinctive writer — but his work as an improvising saxophonist and composer encompassed a variety of other contexts over the course of his career. Hemphill worked with everything from big bands to duos; he especially excelled at composing for unusual instrumental combinations. Hemphill's primary instrument was the alto; he had a huge, somewhat harsh tone, almost as if he were playing...
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Buster Bee, Julius Hemphill
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