World Saxophone Quartet

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The World Saxophone Quartet is a jazz ensemble founded in 1977, incorporating elements of free funk and African jazz into their music. The original members were Julius Hemphill (alto and soprano saxophone, flute), Oliver Lake (alto and soprano saxophone), Hamiet Bluiett (baritone saxophone, alto clarinet), and David Murray (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet). The first three had worked together as members of the Black Artists' Group in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1989, Hemphill left the group due to illness, and several saxophonists have filled his chair in the years since. In the late 1980s the quartet used Bluiett's composition "Hattie Wall" (recorded on W.S.Q., Live in Zurich, Dances and Ballads and Steppenwolf) as a signature theme for the group. The group principally recorded and performed as a saxophone quartet, usually with a lineup of two altos, tenor, and baritone (reflecting the composition of a classical string quartet), but were also joined occasionally by drummers, bassists, and other musicians.