Legendary jazz saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett passed away Thursday at the age of 78, according to the St. Louis American. Widely considered to be one of the greatest baritone saxophonists in jazz history, he was active for more than five decades, performing with Charles Mingus, Babatunde Olatunji, Abdullah Ibrahim, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and others, and his influence cast a long shadow over the genre.
Bluiett was in Brooklyn, Illinois, near St. Louis in 1940 and studied several instruments as a child, settling on baritone saxophone at the age of ten. He played with various bands throughout his teens and joined the Navy band in 1961. Returning to St. Louis in the mid-1960s, he co-founded the multi-discipline Black Artists’ Group and worked with it for several years.
In 1969, he moved to New York and joined the Charles Mingus Quintet and Sam Rivers’ large ensemble. In 1976 he co-founded the World Saxophone Quartet with Julius Hemphill and Oliver Lake, fellow veterans of the Black Artists’ Group, and David Murray. The group continued with several lineup changes over the following decades (including one with Branford Marsalis), releasing some 21 albums. Along with that group, over the past three decades has also formed and performed with the Bluiett Baritone Nation — made up of baritone saxophones with percussion accompaniment — and the Clarinet Family, a group of eight clarinetists, along with session work.
See the St. Louis American for updated memorial service details.