Saturday, September 12, 2009

Julius Hemphill - Flat Out Jump Suite (Black Saint, 1980)

Julius Hemphill was one of the unsung heroes of modern jazz. Coming out of Fort Worth in the generation following Ornette Coleman, Hemphill moved to St. Louis and helped to found the Black Artists Group before moving on to New York and becoming a pivotal figure in the Loft Scene in the 1970's and a founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet. On this album, he is featured on alto saxophone and flute, joined by Olu Dara on trumpet, Abdul Wadud on cello and Warren Smith on drums. The first few compositions are relatively subdued, and take an abstract and open approach to improvisation. "Ear" opens the album with light percussion and flute with trumpet asides. "Mind, Pt. 1" features Dara's stark trumpet while Wadud alternates between plucked and bowed cello and Hemphill adds vocalized flute. Smith gets a feature that ends to first part of the album (and side one of the original LP) with a rolling drum solo. "Heart" has the full band all together on a strong saxophone led improvisation. The trumpet and alto sax on the front line sound great together, leading a nice collective performance. "Body" rounds out the album with strutting horns that seem to be echoing all the way back to the beginning of jazz in New Orleans. Things get modernistic in a hurry as Hemphill breaks out a Dolphyish alto solo along with stoic bass and nice trumpet. The music gives off a vibe of possibility and excitement, that anything is possible and that the best way to pay tribute to masters of the past is by forging your own original way forward. Melding the classic with the modern, this album is a fascinating listen.
Flat-Out Jump Suite -

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