Hemphill: Rediscovering Julius Hemphill

I think music as we know it, is autobiographical.” – Julius Hemphill

Julius Hemphill Archive/Marty Erhlich, Annotated Documents

With New World Records’ recent 7-disc release of Julius Hemphill’s The Boyé Multi-National Crusade For Harmony (ASIN : B08SP172PM), it’s time to celebrate and rediscover this singular American voice. Hemphill (1938-1995) — composer, performer, and improviser of the New Jazz movement — gained international recognition as a saxophonist performing his skillyfully flexible compositions for saxophone quartet and sextet with the World Saxophone Quartet and the Julius Hemphill Saxophone Sextet. His music exemplifies the rich history of African-American musical creativity. Hemphill performed his music with players of jazz and classical backgrounds, and welcomed diverse instrumentation — always looking to highlight the individual voices of the performers.

Subito Music has published Hemphill’s works since 1988,** in coordination with instrumentalist Martin ‘Marty’ Ehrlich – one of Hemphill’s oldest collaborators. (Ehrlich also serves as chief researcher of The Julius Hemphill Archive at New York University.) Erlich has edited Hemphill’s extensive folios and individual works that cover the composer’s full range: from solo pieces to small jazz ensemble; to the extensive saxophone choir music; to jazz big band works; chamber music; pieces for theatre and dance, along with works for classical orchestra. Each of the Hemphill folios comes with introductory notes by Erlich that speak to Hemphill’s own performance practices, and ways in which these works can be used and adapted for diverse contexts.

“There is no one Julius Hemphill,” Erlich shares. “He did as much as any artist to create new spaces in the world as he found it with his artistic vision, creativity, and collective engagement. There are many doors to enter into his work, and in the end, they are all one. In what was to be his final live performance, Julius conducted the members of his Saxophone Sextet from his chair. He contributed solo saxophone introductions to his compositions that were as pure invention and beauty as I can imagine. He would then conduct us with a look at times of glee as his compositional designs filled the hall. These compositions are pathways through his multi-faceted creative life. There is much to celebrate, and to share.”

**Explore the collection of newly engraved Julius Hemphill scores in The Subito Store. Additional titles will be added soon.