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Sunday, Sep 20, 2009
by PopMatters Staff
by John G. Rodwan, Jr.
Open Letters Monthly (September 2009)

“Photographs decorating the Black Saint recording W.S.Q. show the original members of the World Saxophone Quartet wearing tuxedos. As if both to offer a sartorial contrast to their wildly adventurous sound and to suggest an orderly underpinning to their improvisations (which are deeply rooted in jazz tradition), the musicians regularly donned such suits for concerts. In four separate formal portraits included with the 1981 release, each looks like a holdover from another era, one when performers in evening wear would have been the norm rather than the exception. Three – Hamiet Bluiett, Oliver Lake and David Murray – stand in almost identical positions with their hands on their horns as they look over large bowties directly into the camera. Only Julius Hemphill, with one hand at his side, a smile on his face and sunglasses concealing the direction of his gaze, looks relaxed. By the other end of the decade, in the group portraits adorning 1989’s Rhythm and Blues, all four men look completely at ease as they stand together talking and laughing. Again, they each hold their instruments and, while not wearing identical black uniforms, have their double-breasted suit coats neatly buttoned.”


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