World Saxophone Quartet, Cheltenham Jazz Festival

How to get horny with Hendrix
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

In the past, the group has referenced various venerable jazz figures, most notably Duke Ellington. For this anniversary year concert at Cheltenham Town Hall, the dedicatee was Jimi Hendrix. As a crossover between rock and jazz in a venue where almost any music sounds awful, it could have been a terrible mistake. As things turned out, it was a wonderful, uproarious success. At the end, as Murray took up the microphone to sing "The Political Blues", attacking Bush, Rumsfeld and Rice for making war on "the brown countries", it was also very instructive. What we had heard in the preceding hour and a half of Hendrix tunes had certainly been jazz, but it was as funky as James Brown in his pomp.

The quartet came with a specially added rhythm section of electric bassist Jamaladeen Tacuma (ex-Ornette Coleman), and the amazing drummer Lee Pearson, who played one enthralling solo with a drumstick balanced on the top of his head. Alongside, Murray on tenor sax, Oliver Lake and Jorge Silvestre (who replaced the one original quartet member who has died, Julius Hemphill) on altos, and Hamiet Bluitt on baritone blew up a storm with an escalating series of climaxes. Hendrix's exploration of the far-out reaches of the guitar's tonal range was echoed by more squawks and squeals than you could count. These weren't just any old squawks, though. By "over-blowing" hard on the saxophone's reed, Murray and the others can create complex multiphonic effects, the high notes whinnying like horses. At times, the whole hall seemed to be vibrating to the sound. Jimi, you felt, would have been rather proud.