Probably the first of several saxophone-only ensembles who proliferated in jazz after 1975, the WSQ is unquestionably the most commercially (and, arguably, the most creatively) successful. Of course, commercial success is a relative thing in jazz, especially when one is speaking of an avant-garde group. But unlike most free jazz artists, the WSQ managed to attract an audience of significant size; large enough to have garnered a major-label record deal in the '80s, an almost unheard-of occurrence in that retro-jazz decade. The band did it on merit, too, with only a hint of compromise (manifested mainly by albums of R&B and Duke Ellington covers). By the time their first record on Elektra/Musician came out in 1986, the band had evolved from their fire-breathing, free-improvising, ad-hoc beginnings into a smooth-playing, compositionally minded, well-rehearsed band. At their creative peak, the group melded jazz-based, harmonically adventurous improvisation with sophisticated composition. All of the group's original members (Julius Hemphill, alto; Oliver Lake, alto; David Murray, tenor; and Hamiet Bluiett, baritone) were estimable composers as well as improvisers. Each complimented the whole, making them even greater than the considerable sum of their parts. As a composer, Hemphill drew on European techniques (though his tunes were not without an unalloyed jazz component), while Bluiett was steeped in blues and funk. Lake and Murray fell somewhere in between. As soloists and writers, the early WSQ covered all the bases.