WORLD SAXOPHONE QUARTET — Breath of Life (review)

WORLD SAXOPHONE QUARTET — Breath of Life album cover Album · 1994 · Blues Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
js
Sometime along about the late 70s and early 80s a number of jazz musicians began to shake off the shackles of commercially driven fusion and fuzak and began to rediscover the joy of playing “real jazz”, as in a group of horn players jamming to a syncopated drum beat. Ironically, many of the musicians driving this return to the roots were leaders of the 60s free jazz avant-garde. Musicians like David Murray and Oliver Lake began playing anything from jump blues to New Orleans jazz, but not in a corny Dixieland revival way, their music still maintained the tough gritty edge of the 60s avant-garde and more integrity than granite quarry. It is during this movement that Murray and Lake started the World Saxophone Quartet. By the time 1994 rolled around and they released “Breath of Life”, the quartet also featured Hamiet Bluiett and Arthur Blythe.

“Breath of Life” finds our quartet of saxophone virtuosos being joined by a rhythm section and a vocalist for a set of rockin Chicago blues and blues related grooves. This is a great CD and the band “breathes new life” into a musical form that is often overused and played out. A real star here is B3 soloist Amina Claudine Myers and her classic 60s soul jazz organ solos. Also, vocalist Fontella Bass does a great job with songs like “Suffering with the Blues”. Its tiresome to hear a singer go through the motions with an unconvincing blues performance, but Fontella’s sorrow over a love ruined is real and might get you thinking a bit.

The quartet does offer some variety on here, on “Picasso” they play (sans the rhythm section) an artsy semi avant-garde mix of composition and improvisation, and on “Breath of Life” they back up Fontella’s vocals with an earthy reggae groove. Another highlight is the loungey space groove of album closer “Deb” which features a great baritone solo from Bluiett.
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