Best Jazz Artist - 2011
The largest and potentially most cumbersome of commonly used saxophones, the baritone sax can be an unwieldy beast. It takes physical strength and powerful lungs just to lift this horn, fill it with air and produce an acceptable tone. In the hands of less-skilled players, it's useful for filling out the bottom of a big-band arrangement. In the hands of Hamiet Bluiett, it can do just about anything an alto or tenor sax can do — and then some. Generally acknowledged as the finest baritone saxophonist of his generation and one of the best of all time, Bluiett has a most impressive list of credits, including co-founding the Black Artist's Group and the World Saxophone Quartet and a stint with the innovative (and famously demanding) bassist and composer Charles Mingus — not to mention many other solo and collaborative performances and recordings in a wide variety of jazz styles. These days, though, he's just as much about the future, working to codify the WSQ's repertoire so that it might continue independent of the group's founders and teaching and mentoring student musicians. Bluiett's latest educational vehicle, the Big Orchestra Band, Youth Division, debuted in March in a concert presented by the Nu-Art Series. He's done a handful of local club gigs. More frequent local appearances by Bluiett and more institutional support for his worthy educational efforts would be most welcome.