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Hamiet Bluiett and the World Saxophone Quartet

Hamiet Bluiett, a notable baritone saxophonist, made a significant imprint on the avant-garde jazz scene after relocating to New York City in 1969. His pathway towards co-founding the World Saxophone Quartet unfolded in 1976. The Quartet, which came together initially for a performance in New Orleans, was comprised of Bluiett along with Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake, and David Murray. The resonance they found with the audience encouraged them to persist as a cohesive musical entity, naming themselves the World Saxophone Quartet.

Interestingly, the quartet made its first appearance as the Real New York Saxophone Quartet at the Tin Palace in New York City. However, a reported lawsuit threat from another ensemble named the New York Saxophone Quartet necessitated a name change to the World Saxophone Quartet (WSQ), which also symbolized the group’s global musical ambitions. Their inaugural album under the new banner, “Point of No Return,” was recorded in 1977, showcasing a predominantly improvised musical style, indicative of their novel approach to jazz music.

The World Saxophone Quartet stood out for its fusion of various musical styles, encompassing jazz, classical, and world music. This innovative blend provided a platform for exploring and transcending the conventional boundaries associated with saxophone quartets. The ensemble was especially lauded for its improvisational prowess, which was a hallmark of their musical expression. They maintained an active performance and recording schedule into the ’90s, with a personnel change seeing Arthur Blythe stepping in for Julius Hemphill.

Hamiet passed away on October 4, 2018.

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