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Despite Ken Burns’ implication, the ’70s was a resourceful and bottomlessly fruitful time for jazz—-and Hamiet Bluiett is a major reason why. The St. Louis-reared baritone saxophonist—-arguably the greatest living practitioner of that instrument—-co-founded his hometown’s Black Artists’ Group (BAG) collective, then moved to New York and became an integral part of the experimental “loft jazz” scene where he worked in Sam Rivers‘ avant-garde big band and formed the massively influential World Saxophone Quartet, of which he is still a member. The succeeding decades, however, have not dimmed Bluiett’s creative fire: in recent years he’s established an octet of various clarinet varieties as well as Bluiett’s Baritone Nation, a quartet of baritone saxes. But if he remains staunchly avant-garde, he nonetheless loves a good melody, and the playful richness of his sax tone serves as a warm invitation for Bluiett’s always unpredictable journeys.
Bluiett performs tonight at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street NW. $20. (202) 299-0800.