Julius Hemphill Sextet
There are concerts one never forgets. Because, much more than marking a festival’s annual edition, they end up embodying the historic memory of that same festival. The 1st of August of 2003 was the date of one such event: the first Portuguese concert, in the “Jazz em Agosto” stage, of the Julius Hemphill Sextet.
Those who’ve missed it can now discover it partially through this Clean Feed recording. Marty Ehrlich, the tireless curator of Julius Hemphill’s musical heritage and his most dedicated disciple, personally arranged and took great care with this edition, for which he selected all the material that now composes “Hard Blues”.
Those who don’t know Julius Hemphill’s name and work can find through this record the unique experience of an epiphany: Hemphill is one of the great authors of contemporary jazz, a legitimate heir, not a disciple, of one of the rare and uncontroversial last Mohicans of that minority that is the universal jazz composer --- Ornette Coleman.
In his work, and in the Sextet in particular, the African-American culture is, more than memory, sublimation. None of the rivers that make up the jazz ocean, from spirituals to gospel, blues, R&B or soul, funk, bop or free and other improvisational heritages, was foreign to him. But in his hands none ran to its estuary accepting the will of the margins or the consecration of the spring. Because the fate of men like Julius Hemphill is to work in the invention of history, to pursuit the dream of life’s metamorphosis. Identified with a new generation of musicians (with Marty Ehrlich and Tim Berne being exemplary disciples) with a tendency to integrate jazz into a multi-creational process (dance, theatre, cinema, opera, performance art), his name never reached its deserved recognition in the international concert and festival market.
It’s (also) against this destiny that Marty Ehrlich keeps the Julius Hemphill Sextet alive, this incandescent laboratory of experimental consecration to a singular music in contemporary jazz. It’s not hard to turn the listening of “Hard Blues” into a practical and theorical class on the art of jazz and Julius Hemphill, such is the multiplicity of its historical tracks. From the most profound black roots, to the memories of bebop, to the body of free, to new horizons in the complementary arts of writing and improvising, everything is created and recreated at the heart of the Julius Hemphill Sextet.
With Marty Ehrlich and friends, the heritage of Julius Hemphill (and jazz) is extracted from the confines of the museum into a brand new dimension of life.