Funds for Hamiet Bluiett

Source: St. Louis Magazine on Vimeo

Hamiet Bluiett, a giant of the baritone saxophone, is facing the end of his career, and his daughter has set up a GoFundMe page to help with expenses.

Her goal of $10,000 was surpassed within a week or so. But that seems a modest sum, considering Bluiett suffered a series of strokes and will be relocating back to St. Louis. If his music ever touched your heart, it’s not too late to give back.

He’s been battling for a couple of years. Two strokes in 2014 weren’t enough to stop him, as a profile in The New York Times explained. That article also notes that Bluiett suffered financial losses after a fire in 2002 and had not recovered even by 2014.

Bluiett needs no introduction. I first encountered him as part of the World Saxophone Quartet, but of course, all four WSQ members had prolific solo careers. I’m still in the process of exploring them. Much as I associate Bluiett with free jazz, he seems to have a love for traditional forms and tender songs.

I’m thinking particularly of an album called Live at the Village Vanguard: Ballads and Blues (Soul Note, 1997), where he paces the baritone through warmly nostalgic tunes and gentle but hardy blues workouts, in a quartet featuring Ted Dunbar on guitar. It’s inside stuff, but Bluiett does add some edgy touches. Check out the ending of “Rain Forest Ripples,” where he plays around with multiphonics, making the whistling screeches sound downright sensitive.

(Side note: Clint Houston‘s bass solo on “Darian” is another moment to cherish on that album.)

For Bluiett’s scrappy free-jazz side, I’ve been giving fresh listens to Saying Something for All (Just a Memory, 1998), a duo album with Richard Muhal Abrams. It includes a couple of meaty baritone solos, some explosive duet work, and a quiet piece featuring Bluiett’s flute. (More about that album here, and you can hear samples on Soundcloud.)

The transition away from playing music must be painful, but hopefully Bluiett can take solace in knowing he played for as long as he could. Just last year, he came through the Bay Area with Kahil El’Zabar‘s Ritual Trio. In October, he rejoined Abrams for a concert in New York.

Here’s a set-long piece from early 2016, with William Parker (bass) and Hamid Drake (drums). You get to hear Bluiett’s poetry and his flute — and, of course, his trademark baritone sax.

And here’s a treat: a public television segment from St. Louis, where they profile Bluiett as a local hero of the arts.

To contribute to Bluiett’s recovery fund, visit

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