The longest track on “Perfection,” the debut album by a jazz trio with David Murray on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Geri Allen on piano and Terri Lyne Carrington on drums, clocks in at just over eight minutes, covering so much ground that it feels almost like an epic. Composed by Mr. Murray, it’s a swinging tune with a pensive yet intrepid melody, and a midsection of bristling abstraction. The title is playfully apt: “The David, Geri & Terri Show.” Dynamic combustion is the core characteristic of this all-star trio, which first convened at the 2015 NYC Winter Jazzfest. Mr. Murray, 61, is an improviser of great, garrulous bluster, while Ms. Allen and Ms. Carrington, both in their 50s, have forged prominent careers more in line with the postbop mainstream.
As Juan Rodriguez writes in the liner notes, this recording is unusual for David Murray in its lack of theme. Yet, as Rodriguez also correctly notes, the saxophonist's "full-bodied attack and tireless ideas" are themselves a sort of musical concept. In any case, fans of Murray will not be disappointed, even if the album does not break any new ground for the talented Murray. Not that it needs to do so. Murray distinguished himself in the 1970s and 1980s with his affinity for the avant-garde, but that commitment receded (or matured, depending on your perspective) to a more mainstream approach with time.
Tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist David Murray has led and recorded several bands during his career, and this group, dubbed the Black Saint Quartet is one of his most stable and long running. Supported by Lafayette Gilchrist on piano, Jaribu Shahid on bass and Hamid Drake on drums, the group achieves a rock solid modern jazz sound. Murray’s swooping and swaying saxophone is center stage on this live recording, his penchant for long kaleidoscopic solos is an acquired taste for some, but I find it very exciting.
Initially an inheritor of an abstract/expressionist improvising style originated in the '60s by such saxophonists as Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp, David Murray eventually evolved into something of a mainstream tenorist, playing standards with conventional rhythm sections. However, Murray's readings of the old chestnuts are vastly different from interpretations by bebop saxophonists of his generation. Murray's sound is deep, dark, and furry with a wide vibrato reminiscent of such swing-era tenorists as Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins. And his approach to chord changes is unique. Although it's apparent that he's well-versed in harmony, Murray seldom adheres faithfully to the structure of a tune.
Tenor sax and bass clarinet player's excellent series of Octet efforts for Black Saint in the 80s – a run of brilliant albums with lineups featuring Henry Threadgill, Olu Dara, Butch Morris, George Lewis, Anthony Davis, Bobby Bradford, Hugh Ragin, James Spaulding and other great players – 5 albums in a CD box set in the Complete Remastered Recordings On Black Saint & Soul Note series! It includes the Ming album from 1980, Home from '82, Murray's Steps (released in '83), New Life from '87 and Hope Scope from '91 – each in a cardboard sleeve with the original album art and each remastered. (All albums come in cardboard sleeve replicas of the original album covers!)