Takin’ It 2 the Next Level

COMPOSERS: Lake,Murray
LABELS: Justin Time
ALBUM TITLE: World Saxophone Quartet
PERFORMER: David Murray (ts, b-cl); Hamiet Bluiett (bar-s); Oliver Lake (as); John R Purcell (saxello, ts); Donald Blackman (p, kybd); Calvin Jones (ac/el-b); Ronnie Burrage (d, perc, v)
CATALOGUE NO: JUST 93-2

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Since their formation in 1977, the World Saxophone Quartet have set the pace for other similar bands – the US’s 29th St Saxophone Quartet and the UK’s Itchy Fingers among them – courtesy of the lightly borne virtuosity that enables them to switch with apparent ease between both instruments and jazz sub-genres, from free improvisation through straightahead to soul and funk.

Saxello/tenor player John R Purcell has now joined founder members David Murray, Hamiet Bluiett and Oliver Lake, and his unusual main instrument (made more familiar in the UK by Elton Dean) brings a welcome astringency both to the band’s beefy yet often sweetly harmonised themes and to the improvised flights sparked off by them.

Unusually, the quartet are also joined on this album by a rhythm section, which frees things up considerably, allowing Murray and Lake in particular to concentrate on their inimitably eccentric soloing.

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Highlights include Lake’s ‘Rio’, a kaleidoscope of insistent Latin rhythms and continually shifting combinations of front-line instruments, and Murray’s ‘The Desegregation of Our Children’, an affectingly wispy theme leading to a typically eloquent, at times breathtakingly adventurous tenor meditation. Overall, a return to form for this quartet after the musical uncertainty resulting from Julius Hemphill’s departure. CP