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Hemphill, Julius Sextet – “At Dr. King’s Table” – [New World Records]

Thurston Hunger   3/6/2014   CD, Jazz

Recorded in 1997, roughly two years after Julius Hemphill’s death
this sextet is led by Marty Ehrlich apparently all of the compositions
were never recorded before. Several were to serve as choreography for
“Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land” it is interesting
I thought many of the pieces would make a soundtrack to a film,
the firm structure of the “saxophone chorales” (Hemphill founded
the World Saxophone Quartet) having that nice moody power in numbers
to make any voice over flex with more dignified power. The dance
pieces are #2, #7 and #14-16. “Holy Rockers” (#2) shows a lot of
compositional range, an almost mournful open, some fires rise
while a baritone boogie digs in and the high end hits square
skyscraping harmonies. The album drips with structure harmonies
in that sort of European tidiness, but more than a few blues
bursts. “Bumpkin” moves from a St. Louis blues bbq into some high
rise penthouse jazz. “Fixation” has one ear to the symphony, but
another to a popular song, similarly “Ink” kept reminding me of
some old phrase (is it “the woman’s a no good”). “The Children’s
Song” (two versions) has a cry-yer-heart-out quality. My
favorite was probably “Void” where it swings side-to-side and
then up-and-down before turning the soloists loose for the most
free piece here. We’re fortunate at KFJC to have a lot Hemphill’s
other related releases (Dogon A.D. is doggone good!). Long may
his music live on.

-Thurston Hunger

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