Michael G. Mcneill | Rochester, NY United States | 06/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album is what it purports to be: a collection of dances and ballads performed by four of the best saxophonists/woodwind players around (Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake, David Murray, and Hamiet Bluiett). The ballads are sultry, slow, blues-laden midnight laments; each player gets their feature here. Nice for falling asleep. The dances, on the other hand, are irresistably swinging, keeping up all of the rhythmic intensity one could want without a "rhythm section."These four saxophone wizards are also impressive composers. The harmonies are very tight, and each instrument gets proper timbral and registral treatment without becoming cliched. Mr. Hemphill's "Cool Red" and Mr. Murray's "For Lester" are beautiful, rich ballads, while Mr. Bluiett's "Hattie Wall" is a kickin' ride through grooves and group improvisation."
Four masters of their instruments
Michael G. Mcneill | 09/19/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This was my first WSQ album, and I still regard it as my favourite. I thought the whole idea of a quartet based on members of the saxophone family was a bit of an oddity when I saw it some years ago, and it was curiosity more than anything than prompted the purchase. But, just as with string quartets, the incredible variety of tone and expression from these woodwind instruments is a lot more sophisticated than just playing in different octaves. Sometimes the group knit together in unison, other times you get really beautiful harmonies and syncopations. And every so often you seem to get four completely separate performers flying off on wild exploratory paths, only to recombine in to a single group again by some magic of the musician's art. You certainly don't miss a traditional jazz rhythm section of drums and bass (the bass & baritone saxes have more than enough 'grunt'!) and the variety of timbre among tenor, alto and soprano saxes provides plenty of interest. The mixture of upbeat 'dances' and slower 'ballads' provides the perfect stage to display for the WSQ's abilities. I particularly enjoy "West African Snap" - real foot-tapper with drive and energy to spare. Overall, this is anything but the curiosity album I expected it to be, and has attracted me to buy other WSQ records. Get this first, and follow-up with "Rhythm and Blues" - you won't be disappointed!"
Michael Morical | Brooklyn, NY USA | 05/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a wholly different premise than Supersax. The group features original compositions ranging from blues to ballads--all played through the modern sensibilities of these players. They established the saxophone choir--the composing is a major element, like Ellington. I love Bird. But Julius Hemphill and the other men here have made their own contributions to the music. If you feel it's too "honky and squeaky," remember that Charlie Parker was the most "avant-garde" musician of his time, and that he encouraged people to make their own music. One of those was Mingus. This music is innovative without losing a sense of swing. Hemphill, in particular, is a very important figure in the role and sound of a saxophone section--right up there with Benny Carter."