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Julius Hemphill - Dogon A.D. (1972)



Julius Hemphill (1938-1995) dorastał w latach 40., co oznaczało obcowanie z różnymi odmianami muzyki (swingiem, bluesem wiejskim, rhythm and bluesem, gospel, rodzącym się bebopem). Imponowali mu muzycy nowoczesnego jazzu, jak np. Lee Konitz. Uczył się harmonii, gry na klarnecie i saksofonie u Johna Cartera, grał z orkiestrami wojskowymi (1964) oraz akompaniował... Tinie Turner. Uczęszczał też na wykłady na Northern Texas State University.

W 1968 r. przeniósł się do Saint Louis, gdzie został jednym z założycieli BAG (Black Artists Group), koncentrując się na grze na saksofonie. W 1971 r. z pianistą Johnem Hicksem założył pierwszy zespół. W 1972 r. zaprezentował w Saint Louis spektakl multimedialny, na który złożyły się muzyka, taniec i wiersze Hemphilla. Jeszcze w tym samym roku założył własną wytwórnię płytową Mbari Records, nagrywając "Dogon A.D." (album wydany ponownie przez Arista Records), zagrał w filmie "The Orientation Of Sweet Willie Rollbar", gościnnie pojawił się na płycie "Hustler's Convention" zespołu Kool And The Gang. Grał z Anthonym Braxtonem w Chicago, wystąpił gościnnie na jego debiutanckim albumie dla wytwórni Arista, pojechał do Sztokholmu i Paryża (1973). W roku następnym zagrał z Lesterem Bowiem na płycie "Fast Last".

W połowie lat 70. Hemphill nagrał albumy solowe "Roi Boye & The Gotham Minstrels" (z wielokrotnymi nakładkami saksofonu altowego i sopranowego oraz fletu). W 1977 r. został członkiem założycielem i głównym kompozytorem grupy World Saxophone Quartet. Uznanie dla albumów i koncertów WSQ postawiło zespół Hemphilla w relacji najważniejszej formacji nowoczesnej "black music" (często porównywanej do Art Ensemble Of Chicago).

Mimo sukcesów oraz stabilnej pozycji w 1990 r. Hemphill opuszcza kwartet, decydując się na realizację własnych projektów. Intensywne, konkretne, nosowe brzmienie saksofonów Hemphilla i głoszone przez niego płomienne idee wysunęły go na czoło instrumentalistów współczesnego jazzu. Regularnie pojawiał się na estradzie w duecie z alcistą Oliverem Lakiem, a w 1980 r. poprowadził big-band w czasie festiwalu w Newport. Przez następne dwa lata nagrywał i koncertował z Baikidaa Carollem i Kalaparushem Maurice'em McIntyre'em.

Zaskoczył płytą "Jungle Cowboy", nawiązując do śmiałych, postharmolodycznych koncepcji generacji M-Base. Mniej udane okazały się natomiast jego prywatne próby stworzenia "populistycznej" fuzji muzycznej z JAH Band. W 1989 r. Hemphill doprowadził do premiery najnowszej wersji swej saksofonowej opery "Long Tongue", nad którą pracował od początku lat 80. Jest to zabarwiona epiką kombinacja aranżacji na big-band, free jazzu i kolokwialnych, rytmizowanych "czarnych" tekstów. Hemphill postrzegany jest jako jeden z najbardziej twórczych i oryginalnych kompozytorów oraz aranżerów współczesnego jazzu. (diapazon)

Abdul K. Wadud - cello
Baikaida Yassen - trumpet
Phillip Wilson - percussion
Julius Hemphill - sax



At the time of his death in 1995, saxophonist and composer Julius Hemphill was acknowledged as a prolific and visionary composer, mentor, and performer. In addition to his position as a founder and member of the World Saxophone Quartet from 1977 to 1990 and the Julius Hemphill Sextet from 1991 until his death, his composed works included pieces for duos, quartets, and big bands. Hemphill was also instrumental in the work of the Black Artists Group in St. Louis, a group of activists, artists, and musicians who attempted to bring a social message through their art to a broad audience of African Americans in the 1970s. Hemphill even founded his own record company, Mbari Records, in the attempt to retain control over his artistic vision.

Hemphill was born on January 24, 1938, in Fort Worth, Texas. The Hemphill family included a number of ministers, a fact that Hemphill later drew upon in explaining the inspiration for his career as a musician. As he told David Jackson of Down Beat magazine in 1975, music was "an act of giving, coming out of an intensely religious tradition." Hemphill studied music while in high school, focusing on the baritone saxophone, and later trained with jazz musician John Carter. Hemphill subsequently attended North Texas State University in Denton and Lincoln University in St. Louis, Missouri, although he did not take a degree at either institution. As he was later quoted in a Nation magazine profile, "It was an academic pursuit, largely hypothetical, since there were so few African Americans in the classical world." In addition to his formal training, he gained professional experience playing with a number of R&B bands in Fort Worth.

In 1964, Hemphill entered the United States Army. After his stint in the armed forces, he returned to playing as a professional musician, this time with Ike Turner. In 1967-68, he moved to St. Louis, his wife's hometown; the Hemphills would eventually have two sons. In St. Louis, Hemphill helped to revitalize one of the most active and innovative jazz scenes in the country through his participation in the Black Artists Group (BAG). While St. Louis had been the center of a vibrant jazz community in the late 1950s and early 1960s, much of the homegrown talent had left for New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Consequently, the number of performance spaces for jazz artists had almost disappeared in the city, and those who remained were reduced to playing in public parks. Together with musicians Hamiet Bluiett and Oliver Lake and a host of other musicians, writers, poets, actors, painters, and dancers, Hemphill founded the BAG to refocus and revitalize the African American artistic community. In 1968, BAG successfully lobbied the state's Arts Council for a grant and soon opened the doors to a community center that provided musical training for children as well as performing space for BAG productions.

With the goal of retaining artistic control of his work, Hemphill also founded Mbari Records to record and distribute his work. One of his compositions from this period, Dogon A.D., was later reissued by Freedom Records. A quartet piece, the work called for a cello in place of the traditional bass. Equally innovative was Hemphill's contribution to the 1972 multimedia production of Kawaida, which incorporated music and dance as well as his own concert appearances on the college circuit, often in exuberant ethnic costumes. By the mid-1970s, Hemphill had a strong enough reputation as an avant-garde composer and live performer that he appeared in such international locales as Stockholm and Paris.

In 1972, the BAG disbanded and Hemphill relocated to Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and two sons. He continued his eclectic output as a musician during this period, adapting some of his work for the film The Orientation of Sweet Willie Rollbar, headlining African American cultural performances in New York City, and even contributing as a guest musician to the Kool and the Gang track "Hustler's Convention." Hemphill also recorded two albums of his performances as an alter-ego persona, Roi Boyé, for the 1977 releases Blue Boyé and Roi Boyé and the Gotham Minstrels.

In 1977, Hemphill rejoined with BAG partners Bluiett and Lake. Together with David Murray, they formed the World Saxophone Quartet (WSQ), which Hemphill would play with until 1990. As the primary composer of the WSQ, Hemphill's works enjoyed their greatest exposure. One work, called "Steppin,'" was even added to the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz, one of the few works of the modern jazz era to receive that distinction. Although he continued to push the artistic boundaries of jazz, Hemphill did not give in to the artistic excesses that sometimes plagued other composers. As Gene Santoro wrote in Nation, "[H]e's never surrendered to the sheer energy of note cascades for their own virtuosic sake.... Instead, he uses his marvelous gift for lyricism to leaven even his earthiest or most avant-garde, noise-perforated outings. That thoughtful and balanced approach, that distinctive sense of control over texture and space, shows clearly in his composing as well as his approach to his horns." Gary Giddins echoed this sentiment in a Village Voice tribute, singling out Hemphill's "special brilliance -- a clarity of purpose that made every piece singular, vividly indicative of a specific mood or idea" as the hallmark of his WSQ work [...]

Hemphill's achievements had guaranteed him an esteemed place in the pantheon of great jazz composers and musicians of the twentieth century. As one of his students, Marty Ehrlich, remarked to the Village Voice, "He got lumped in with the avant-garde, but he was really his own academy. One mark of his genius is that he found his musical language at a really young age -- it's pretty much all there in Dogon A.D." (Timothy Borden)

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