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Album Review

As a founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet, baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett acquired a well-deserved reputation as an avant-gardist. However, as this album proved in 1984 (and others have proven countless times since), his talents also run to the more conventional. Though Ebu has a taste of the arcane, it is mostly a collection of relatively straightahead Bluiett-penned blowing vehicles done with fire and invention. Bluiett has the biggest sound in town; his phrasing and articulation is a little heavy, as one would expect, but he plays with a strength and conviction that's rarely equalled by other baritonists. And, of course, he has an immediately identifiable style. His band — John Hicks, piano; Fred Hopkins, bass; Marvin "Smitty" Smith, drums — is well-attentive to the music's needs, and ambitious enough to take it to places not commonly explored. An interesting album, given the perspective of the years that have passed since it was made. It's very straightahead; however, it's wildly different from the mannered product that's usually presented as mainstream jazz in the late '90s. This music has a manifest unruliness, a spirit of adventure; it leaps outrageously into the unknown and usually lands square on its feet—unlike it's contemporary equivalent, which can rarely be bothered to scuff it's polished Gucci loafers. If jazz remains content to continually re-examine its past, this would be a great place to revisit.


Born: 16 September 1940 in Lovejoy, IL

Genre: Jazz

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

The most prominent baritone saxophonist of his generation, Hamiet Bluiett combines a blunt, modestly inflected attack with a fleet, aggressive technique, and (maybe most importantly) a uniform hugeness of sound that extends from his horn's lowest reaches to far beyond what is usually its highest register. Probably no other baritonist has played so high, with so much control; Bluiett's range travels upward into an area usually reserved for the soprano or even sopranino. His technical mastery aside,...
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Ebu, Hamiet Bluiett
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