David Murray Quartet




The sound is as lush as ever, spilling from the speakers to fill every corner of the room. In fact it’s odd that David Murray’s reputation was primarily as a tearaway in the heady 1970s, because he was already an unreformed romantic. You could hear that not just in his tenor saxophone sound, but in some of his compositions, as is the case here, on an album focused as much on compositional finesse as improvising skill.

The young members of Murray’s new quartet were no doubt eager to immerse themselves in one the most thrilling sounds in jazz history; eager to soak up the knowledge of an artist who’s made over 100 albums.

They certainly enhance the inherent romance of the waltz-time title track, on which Murray’s sumptuousness carries echoes of the great Ellington saxophonist Ben Webster in terms of vastness, plushness and breadth of vibrato. He solos with lyrical abandon, before tender contributions from pianist Marta Sanchez and bassist Luke Stewart, supported by drummer Russell Carter’s brushes.

Murray comes from the commendable school that considers all idioms of music to be one, so the album bounces around, with the ensuing Ninno being a samba of sorts, the saxophone now used to build unstoppable momentum, before it goes spiralling up to Murray’s trademark altissimo range. The real highlight of the piece, however, is the punchy drum solo, with Carter clearly being a player who shares his leader’s fondness for fat sounds.

Shenzhen is another about-face, as Murray swaps to bass clarinet to conjure up an evocative sonic picture of the Chinese metropolis, aided by Carter’s mallets and a bass ostinato. Murray’s rather wistful melody manages to imply both the city’s western and eastern characteristics, while flashes of light from the piano illuminate the shadowy bass clarinet.

David Murray Quartet. Photos supplied.

Murray’s tenor is at its most monumental on Come and Go, the 5/4 time of which is made flowing rather than jerky, over which the saxophonist unleashes deluges of notes, before we find out just how good Sanchez is, crafting effortlessly swinging lines over the odd time signature or chopping it up as with a cleaver, and simultaneously devising ingeniously intricate crosscurrents.

A blues was almost inevitable, and Am I Going to Get Some?, features bristling exchanges with the drums. The only non-Murray composition is a quirky one: Don Pullen’s Richard’s Tune (for the hugely influential Chicago musician Muhal Richard Abrams), with Murray playing bass clarinet to less interesting effect than on Shenzhen. Free Mingus is more romantic again, despite riding on a funky backbeat, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the surprises and energy of the following Cycles and Seasons, with its jolting rhythmic changes (highlighted in another Carter solo) and furious saxophone squalls. There are greater David Murray records (Like a Kiss that Never Ends, Live at the Lower Manhattan Ocean Club), but few better recorded or as refined.