The 33rd of Jon Turney’s weekly selection (introduced HERE) is all about the horns.
Among early releases from the World Saxophone Quartet, this live set stands out, as live sets often do. It also says unequivocally that Julius Hemphill was the principal composer for this brilliant ensemble, completed by David Murray, Oliver Lake, and Hamiet Bluiett.
Bordertown is a particularly beautiful example of his writing (not to be confused with the rollicking Bennie Wallace tune of the same name). The lovely line is set against high and low horns. Murray lays down his tenor on this piece, leaving the middle register free and creating a lucid, uncluttered arrangement.
After the lovely opening statement from bass clarinet and soprano sax, the music moves seamlessly between cleverly varied arrangement and polyphonic improvisation, with lots of searing soprano sax. It has the air of an unexpected meeting between Ellington and Ornette Coleman where they discover they have a surprising amount in common. A cleverly written coda exploits the four’s ability to play pacy unison even when the line is complex. It’s a lasting example of why the World Saxophone Quartet was such a compelling group for more than 30 years.