Julius Hemphill was an American saxophonist, composer, and bandleader born on January 24, 1938, in Fort Worth, Texas. He was known for his innovative and experimental approach to jazz music, which incorporated elements of free jazz, funk, and avant-garde music.
Hemphill began his musical career in the 1960s, playing in R&B and soul bands in St. Louis, Missouri. He later moved to New York City, where he became a member of the Black Artists Group, a collective of African American musicians and artists.
In the 1970s, Hemphill formed the World Saxophone Quartet, a pioneering ensemble that blended elements of free jazz and traditional African music. The quartet featured Hemphill and three other saxophonists and recorded several acclaimed albums, including “Steppin'” (1979) and “Requiem for Julius” (1995).
Hemphill was also a prolific composer and wrote many of the songs featured on his albums. He was known for his use of unconventional time signatures, complex harmonies, and unconventional instrumentation.
Throughout his career, Hemphill collaborated with many notable jazz musicians, including Ornette Coleman, Anthony Braxton, and David Murray. He also taught at the Wesleyan University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Hemphill passed away on April 2, 1995, at the age of 57. His contributions to the world of jazz music were immense, and he remains one of the most influential and innovative saxophonists and composers of his generation. Julius Hemphill’s music continues to be celebrated today, and his recordings are regarded as some of the most groundbreaking and influential in the history of jazz.
Page last updated 4/2/2023.