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Julius Hemphill & Abdul Wadud: Live In New York

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Album Review

This was recorded at a time when the saxophonist's playing was at a peak — a year after his historic Coon Bid'ness, and the same year that Hemphill co-founded the World Saxophone Quartet. For this recording, he performs a series of four duos with cellist Abdul Wadud, a familiar and comfortable collaborator. The setting lets Hemphill stretch, his country and blues roots in full bloom. His poignant sound was never more compelling, and Wadud was a bracing partner whose emotional depth and extraordinary technique are unequaled on the instrument. While the music is largely free, Hemphill was so rooted in the vernacular of the common folk that his solos have an earthy feel throughout. The titles of the tunes are indicative of a somewhat abstract, ethereal approach: "In Space," "Pensive," "Echo 1 (Morning)," and "Echo 2 (Evening)." Yet, while luxuriating in the natural pleasures of the moment, Hemphill and Wadud adventurously and intensely navigate dangerous grounds.


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 a horn...
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