Best Jazz Artist - 2009
Fellow musicians, critics and knowledgeable fans all consider Hamiet Bluiett to be not only the preeminent baritone saxophonist of his generation, but one of the very best ever to play the instrument in jazz. With a powerful tone that spans the entire range of the big horn and the ability to play with a fluidity and nimbleness that rivals any alto or tenor player, Bluiett can float like a butterfly, sting like a bee or run you over like a testosterone-crazed bull moose — sometimes all in the course of a single composition. As a member of St. Louis' seminal Black Artists' Group and a cofounder of the World Saxophone Quartet, Bluiett is occasionally typecast as an avant-gardist. But while he can deliver frenetic skronk or cerebral, icy abstraction when required, Bluiett's own sets offer a pan-stylistic range of African American music — including gutbucket blues, gospel, soul, and assorted jazz and pop conventions reworked to suit. He's a rare treasure, a truly world-class musician right here in our own back yard.