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Mon, 01.24.1938

Julius Hemphill, Musician, and Teacher born

Julius Hemphill

*Julius Hemphill was born on this date in 1938. He was a Black jazz composer and saxophone player.

Julius Arthur Hemphill was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and attended I.M. Terrell High School. He studied music at North Texas State College. Hemphill joined the Army in 1964 and served several years in the United States Army Band. He later performed with Ike Turner for a brief period.

In 1968, Hemphill moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and co-founded the Black Artists' Group (BAG). This multidisciplinary arts collective brought him into contact with artists such as saxophonists Oliver Lake and Hamiet Bluiett, trumpeters Baikida Carroll and Floyd LeFlore, and writer/director Malinke Robert Elliott. Hemphill moved to New York City in the mid-1970s and was active in the then-thriving free jazz community. He taught saxophone lessons to several musicians, including David Sanborn and Tim Berne.

Hemphill was best known as the founder of the World Saxophone Quartet, a group he formed in 1976 after collaborating with Anthony Braxton in several saxophone-only ensembles. Hemphill left the World Saxophone Quartet in the early 1990s and formed a saxophone quintet. Hemphill recorded over twenty albums as a leader, about ten records with others. Late in his life, ill health forced Hemphill to stop playing saxophone, but he continued writing music until he died in New York City.

A source of information on Hemphill's life and music is a multi-hour oral history interview that he conducted for the Smithsonian Institution in March and April 1994, and which is held at the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Julius Hemphill died on April 2, 1995.

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