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Julius Hemphill Sextet: The Hard Blues

One thought kept going through my mind as I listened to The Hard Blues: Not much good came out of Julius Hemphill leaving the World Saxophone Quartet. Sure, the WSQ went on to record a bunch more albums with his replacements, and Hemphill himself formed a nice sax sextet to play his own compositions. But the WSQ never recorded another truly great album after Hemphill left, and Hemphill’s sextet-as good as it was-was never quite on a level with the WSQ.

Now Hemphill is gone, but his sextet continues under the leadership of altoist/sopranoist Marty Ehrlich. On The Hard Blues he is joined by Andy Laster (alto), the late Sam Furnace (alto/soprano), Aaron Stewart (tenor), Andrew White (tenor) and Alex Harding (bari). But is the band’s continued existence a good thing? Well, it’s not a bad thing, but it’s definitely not the same thing. Just as the Hemphill-led sextet paled somewhat in comparison to the WSQ, so does this Ehrlich-led group suffer when held up to its immediate predecessor.

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