Best Jazz Artist - 2006
There are giants among us. Well, one giant, anyway. See that man over there with the saxophonethe big horn with the funny-looking extra curve at the top? His name is Hamiet Bluiett, he resides in Brooklyn, Illinois, and he is one of the two or three baddest cats ever to pick up a baritone sax. Yeah, Gerry Mulligan was a clever writer/arranger and a good bebop player who helped spawn the "West Coast Jazz" sound of the 1950s. And Harry Carney was an indispensable anchor for Duke Ellington's orchestra for decades. But Bluiett, he's taken the baritone beyond tradition, soaring with the audacity and virtuosity once thought to be the exclusive province of alto and tenor players. If it can be done on a saxophone, Bluiett can do it. Besides serving as a founding member of the groundbreaking World Saxophone Quartet, Bluiett's done blues, ballads, bop, funk, free improvisation and more. His superlative skills are still much in demand in New York, Europe and elsewhere, so St. Louis is lucky to get two or three performances from him per year. Our town has plenty of great jazz musicians, but Bluiett's stature has reached the level of historic importance, and respect must be paid.