Julius Hemphill Day

January 24, 1938 – April 2, 1995

A tribute to the innovative altoist

Alto-saxophonist and composer Julius Hemphill was born on January 24, 1938 in Fort Worth, Texas.

He learned alto-sax and clarinet while in high school, served in the United States Army during 1964-67, and after his discharge performed briefly with Ike Turner.

In 1968 Hemphill moved to St. Louis where he became an important part of the avant-garde jazz scene, co-founding the Black Artists Group, performing with the top local musicians including saxophonists Oliver Lake and Hamiet Bluiett, and recording the influential album Dogon A.D.

He moved to New York in the mid-1970s where in 1976 he founded the innovative World Saxophone Quartet, a group also including Lake, Bluiett and David Murray; Hemphill wrote many of the ensemble’s arrangements.

While that was his main group until he departed in the early 1990s, Hemphill also recorded over 15 albums as a leader, leading a saxophone sextet later in life.

Julius Hemphill is featured on duets with cellist Abdul Wadud live from the La Mama Theater on May 28, 1976.

-Scott Yanow


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