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Irene Schweizer / Joey Baron : Live! (Intakt)

Two generations and two masters of monumental free improvisation from Europe and New York joined together at the unerhort!-Festival Rote Fabrik Zurich in 2015 to unleash this technically awesome and ebullient and duo in a fantastic concert of dynamic power, lyrical insight, intense rhythmic support and counterpoint, and profound musical ideas; incredible! ... Click to View


Die Enttauschung (Axel Dorner / Michael Griener / Rudi Mahall / Jan Roder): Lavaman (Intakt)

The remarkable European Free Jazz quintet Die Enttauschung, crossing bop forms with modern creative approaches to jazz for over 20 years, take a new drummer--Michael Griener--and adds trombonist Christof Thewes, to join Rudi Mahall on clarinets, Axel Dorner on trumpet, and Jan Roder on bass, for an exciting and upbeat album of succint tunes that both revere and abuse jazz history in wonderful ways. ... Click to View


Trio Heinz Herbert (w/ Dominic Landolt / Ramon Landolt / Mario Haenni): The Willisau Concert (Live) (Intakt)

Textural improv of improbable grooves and tones driven by intense periods of interaction balanced with spatial sonic environments; adventurous and exuberant dialog caught live at the Jazzfestival Willisau, in Switzerland, 2016 from the trio of Dominic Landolt on guitar, Ramon Landolt on Hammond organ, synthesizer & samples and Mario Haenni on drums. ... Click to View


Aruan Ortiz : Cub(an)ism (Intakt)

Cuban pianist Aruan Ortiz explores a range of musical idioms and styles, drawing on experiences from many phases of Ortiz' life in Cuba, Spain, France and the US, exploring cubist principles, faceting, and multiple perspectives with folkloric elements, as he presents 10 original compositions of passionate and playful music, performed with virtuosic skill. ... Click to View


Aki Takase / Paul Ayumi : Hotel Zauberberg (Intakt)

Pianist Aki Takase and voilinist Ayumi Paul's 1st collaboration is an 18 movement suite for violin and piano blending composition and improvisation, with 11 movements from Takase and 5 written with Paul, plus Mozart's "K. 1 minuet in G major" and the Preludio movement from Bach's solo violin partita in E major; an absorbing set of recordings inspired by the writings of Thomas Mann. ... Click to View


Hans Hassler: Wie Die Zeit Hinter Mir Her (Intakt)

Swiss accordionist Hans Hassler stands above the (small) crowd of improvising accordionist in the breadth of his career, his ability to balance both lyrical, abstract, serious, and humorous aspects in his approach the instrument, a true original in intent and ability to engage his listeners, in 15 original and diverse compositions recorded in 2017. ... Click to View


Pan-Scan Ensemble: Air And Light And Time And Space (PNL)

"Pan-Scan" refers to pan-Scandinavian, and the nine players on this thrilling and joyful recordings are all of that origin, performing live at Blow Out in Mir, Oslo, Norway in 2016, including both Lotte Anker and Ann HOgberg on sax, Thomas Johansson, Emil Stranberg and Goran Kajfes on trumpet, Sten Sandell on piano, and Paal Nilssen-Love and Stale Liavik on drums. ... Click to View


Xavier Charles / Michel F Cote / Franz Hautzinger / Philippe Lauzier / Eric Normand: Torche! (Tour de Bras)

An exceptional free improvising quintet of Montreal & Quebec improvisers--bassist Eric Normand, drummer Michel F. Cote, and bass clarinetist Philippe Lauzier--with French clarinetist Xavier Charles and German trumpeter Franz Hautzinger, performing live during the 2016 Festival de Musique de Creation, creating fascinating commontion with incredible restraint. ... Click to View


Fraufraulein: Heavy Objects [CASSETTE] (Marginal Frequency)

The duo of Brooklyn electronics, field recording, bass guitar and french horn artists Billy Gomberg and Anne Guthrie, using musical and abstract sounds to create something between the concrete textures of field recording and spontaneous composition, presenting restrained yet detailed sound that engages the listener through transition and mystery. ... Click to View


Joda Clement / Mathieu Ruhlmann: Kindred (Marginal Frequency)

A unique cover of Brian Eno's "Taking Tiger Mountain" using synthesizer, field recordings, electromagnetic feedback, treatments, objects, oscillators, shruti box, reel to reel, ukelin, guitar, piano, clarinet, cello and voice, from Joda Clement and Mathieu Ruhlmann joined by Cristian Alvear, Gregory Moskos, Alexandra Spence, Tim Clement, Judith Hamann and A.F. Jones. ... Click to View


Mars Williams presents (w/ Berman / Lonberg-Holdm / Baker / Kessler / Sandstrom / Hunt): An Ayler Xmas: The Music of Albert Ayler & Songs of Christmas (Soul What Records)

Chicago saxophonist Mars Williams directs his Albert Ayler tribute band, Witches and Devils, to merge Ayler-esque compositions with Christmas songs, performed by Josh Berman (cornet) Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Jim Baker (keys, viola), Kent Kessler (bass), Brian Sandstrom (bass, guitar, trumpet); an unexpected and welcome present for your free jazz festivities! ... Click to View


Boneshaker (Mars Williams / Paal Nilssen-Love / Kent Kessler): Unusual Words (Soul What Records)

A CD intended to sell at concerts from Mars Williams' own Soul What Records label, a studio recording in 2012 from the powerhouse trio of Chicago multi-reedist Mars Williams, in-demand Norwegian drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, and Chicago bassist Kent Kessler, running the gamut from furious blowing to introspective interaction. ... Click to View


Elliott Sharp / Mary Halvorson / Marc Ribot: ERR Guitar (Intakt)

Elliott Sharp's New York Studio zOaR was the meeting place for three New York guitarists--Sharp himself, Mary Halvorson, and Marc Ribot--who find common ground by blending a variety of approaches to the instrument in 12 excellent and generally succinct collective improvisations, stretching, bending, plucking and inexplicably effecting their guitars. ... Click to View


John Cage: Klang der Wandlungen [3 CDs] (Edition Rz)

An impressive triple-CD box with recordings of some late works by John Cage, including "Seventy-Four for Orchestra, 1992", "103 for Orchestra, 1991, part 1 & 2", In a Landscape fur Harfe", "Postcard From Heaven fur Eine Bis Zwanzig Harfen", and some of "The Harmony of Maine"; including a 32 page booklet with photos and liner notes by Jakob Ullmann. ... Click to View


Jurg Frey: L'ame Est Sans Retenue I [5 CDs] (erstwhile)

A massive work from composer Jurg Frey focused on the dynamic relationship between sound and silence, and how it can affect our perception of the silence in a frame of space and time, using environmental sounds of field recordings and silence to create a massive work over six hours, modifying pitch, rhythm, dynamics, texture, and overtone, here properly released on 5 CDs. ... Click to View


Michael Pisaro / Samuel Dunscombe / Steven Andrew Flato / Wen Liu / Celeste Oram / Johannes Regnier: Organ For The Senses (Marginal Frequency)

San Diego's Parkeology director Kate Clark and composer Samuel Dunscombe organized this concert to take advantage of the Balboa Park's Spreckels Organ, inviting local and regional experimental composers to develop works for the 5,017 pipe instrument, attracting artists like Michael Pisaro, Samuel Dunscombe, Steven Andrew Flato, Wen Liu, &c. ... Click to View


Jon Irabagon / Joe Fiedler / Todd Neufeld: In Formation Network (Nuscope)

Saxophonist Jon Irabagon, trombonist Joe Fiedler, and guitarist Todd Neufeld met in April, 2017 in Mount Vernon at the Oktaven Audio studio to record these nine varied compositions, presenting a unifying trio sound and identity that reflects Chicago's Giuffre trio, but with a unique collective attitude as the trio employs a varied set of compositional strategies. ... Click to View


Joe McPhee: The Willisau Concert (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

Recorded in 1975 at the Swiss Willisau Jazz Festival, Joe McPhee's trio with John Synder on synth and Makaya Ntshoko on drums, and McPhee on tenor and sopranox sax, was Hat Hut's 2nd release and has been out of print since; Corbett vs. Dempsey asked McPhee what unavailable album he'd like to see in print, and this suberb album was his first choice. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne : The Lost Eddie Chatterbox Session [2017 REISSUE] (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

Reissuing free improvising guitarist Eugene Chadbourne's 1977, San Francisco recording of compositions by the likes of Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman, plus a few standards and originals, captured on an ailing quarter-track tape deck, but saved for the force of his playing, here restored, corrected, and remastered. ... Click to View


Sun Ra: Discipline 27-II [2017 REMASTER] (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

The 2nd volume in Sun Ra's "Discipline" series was recorded during the same sessions as 1972's Impulse release "Space Is the Place", with Sun Ra on electronic keyboards and Moog, and a large band including Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, Danny Davis, Akh Tal Ebah, June Tyson, &c. ... Click to View


Leap of Faith Orchestra: The Expanding Universe (Evil Clown)

The Leap of Faith Orchestra is a large improvisation ensemble comprised of 5 ub-units--Leap of Faith, Metal Chaos Ensemble, String Theory, Turbulence, and the New Language Collaborative--all assembled here for a massive and far-ranging experience, scored with time indices and English language descriptions by leader David Peck; dense and spectacular. ... Click to View


Lisbon String Trio with Luiz Rocha: Akuanduba (Creative Sources)

The 4th collaboration for Portugal's Lisbon String Trio of Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, Miguel Mira on cello, and Alvaro Rosso on double bass, with Brazilian clarinetist based in Barcelona Luiz Rocha, all captured live at Casa dos Bicos, Fundacao Jose Saramago, in Lisbon in 2017 for free improvisation that maintains a calm center amidst seething and commanding playing. ... Click to View


Lisbon String Trio with Etienne Brunet: Telepathie (Creative Sources)

Portugal's Lisbon String Trio with Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, Miguel Mira on cello, and Alvaro Rosso on double bass, in a series of releases adding one additional improviser, here joined by Etienne Brunet on soprano saxophone, for two extended improvisations of active counterpoint and beautiful open sections, an excellent and rousing collaboration. ... Click to View


Un Coup de Des (Barriere / Sainz): Volcan Evaporado (Creative Sources)

Two women in a duo of voice and amplified objects, Lali Barrier using a variety of devices that are clearly micro-amplifed and mixed in performance, as Marta Sainz intones vocal sounds, never speaking but creating innuendo and drama at a cautious pace, allowing Barrier's objects to interact, creating an unusual sonic environment of unpredictable and interesting discourse. ... Click to View


Steve Roden : Between Yellow And White On One Side. Between Blue And Black On The Other (Banned Productions)

Part of a trilogy of cassette-related works that began with a piece sound artist Steve Roden created for an online exhibition for ICA London in early 2012, these two works were composed from 1983-84 recordings Roden made in his bedroom, recorded at double speed and here playing at half speed, half in reverse, which were organized into these two compositions. ... Click to View


Kullhammar, Aalberg Zetterber & Santos Silva: Basement Sessions Vol.4 (The Bali Tapes) (Clean Feed)

The 4th volumes of this remarkable set of "basement sessions" from the Swedish trio of Espen Aalberg on drums & percussion, Jonas Kullhammar on saxophone & flute, and Torbjorn Zetterberg on bass, joined by Susana Santos Silva on trumpet, for a beautiful album of free hard bop, encompassing spiritual and ritual aspects of gamelan music in a unique and wonderful album. ... Click to View


Imaginary Numbers (McPhee / Niggenkemper / Solberg): Imaginary Numbers (Clean Feed)

Playing both pocket trumpet and tenor sax, Joe McPhee joins German/French/NY bassist Pascal Niggenkemper, and Norwegian drummer Stale Liavik Solberg, for an authoritative and bold album of collective free improv, three extended conversations that center on "A Supreme Love (For John Coltrane)", pointing to the history and sympathies of these impressive musicians. ... Click to View


Gard Nilssen's Acoustic Unity : Live in Europe [3 CDs] (Clean Feed)

Three complete 2016 concerts at North Sea Jazz Festival, Ljubljana Jazz Festival and Oslo Jazz Festiva, and 3 CDs to present them, from drummer Gard Nilssen's Acoustic Unity, a superb free/post-bop group with a core of Nilssen, bassist Petter Eldh, and saxophonist Andre Roligheten, featuring 3 saxophonists: Fredrik Ljungkvis, Kristoffer Berre Alberts, and Jorgen Mathisen. ... Click to View


Tree Ear (Strinning / Troller / Hemingway): Witches Butter (Clean Feed)

After percussionist and composer Gerry Hemingway migrated to Luzern, Switzerland he joined forces with the creative improvising community in that city, in particular with guitarist Manuel Troller and saxophonist and bass clarinetist Sebastian Strinning, the trio taking the name Tree Ear, blending free and idiomatic improv in bold, uncommon and spellbinding ways. ... Click to View


Eve Risser / Kaja Draksler: To Pianos (Clean Feed)

Two pianists dedicate to their instruments at the Gallus Hall of Cankarjev Dom during the 57th Jazz Festival Ljubljana: Paris-based pianist Eve Risser (Umlaut, En-Corps, &c) and Slovenian pianist Kaja Draskler (I/O, Draskler Octet, &c.), to record these inventive duos, weaving their keys together or working inside and out of the piano in incredible sonic approaches. ... Click to View


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David Murray's Musical Travels


By Kurt Gottschalk 2003-12-15

David Murray
[Photo: Kurt Gottschalk]
David Murray took the stage at one of the most prestigious halls in New York City in mid October. The room itself was the beautiful new Zankel Hall, but this was nevertheless Carnegie Hall, which no matter what even when pop brothers Hanson rent it is a statement.

Less than a decade ago, Murray was living in Brooklyn, leading a big band Monday nights at the Knitting Factory and playing well lubricated gigs at the Village Vanguard and other spots around town. Despite being one of the best jazz horn players alive, he was another New York gigging musician.

But times change, and now his appearances in town, once or twice a year at best, are events. On this night, it was the 10 string players - in addition to his quartet of pianist Lafayette Gilchrist, bassist Jaribu Shahid and drummer Hamid Drake - that made the gig a concert proper. But even if this was Carnegie Hall and even if the string players were in concert black, the only orchestra Murray was taking cues from was the Love Unlimited. And while he didn't mention Philadelphia, he alluded to his other musical journeys of recent years.

"My quartet is the core of my explorations in Africa and the Carribean," he said from the stage. "We've traveled many miles together and we have many more miles to travel."

Murray's sculpting of events in part relies on a fonder heart borne of absence. But it's also or would seem to be by design, part of a master plan. When asked after a rehearsal for his Cuban Big Band's appearance at the Knitting Factory in January why he doesn't play in New York anymore, he said simply "That's by design."

It's also logistics. Murray left New York to live in France in 1995, where he and his wife Valerie Malot run 3D Family Productions. Since then, his performances in the town he called home for some 25 years haven't been gigs, they've been concerts: proper halls, thematic programming, and ticket prices to match. He brought a big band to Aaron Davis Hall in Harlem to play the music of Duke Ellington and appeared with his octet on Broadway for a performance with the dance troupe Urban Bushwomen.

And after three score and more cds leading dozens of musicians through his insightful arrangements of the jazz repertoire, Murray announced his retirement from jazz around the time he left New York, saying he would focus his efforts on musical traditions of other cultures. That and the move to Paris marked his fall from New York jazz darling, our own anti-Marsalis, to an outsider, someone whose name most often elicits responses like "Is that guy still around?" and "Oh yeah, what's he been up to?"

But for Murray, the musician's life in New York was getting worse, with fewer places to play and less opportunity to get paid.

"It seemed kind of a void, like things were going to change for the worse," he said. "The musicians didn't really want to stand up for their rights - the right to play anywhere they want to, to be creative. New York has always been the most creative city in the world. Conservatism had taken over jazz."

To sidestep that conservatism, Murray became a world traveler. In a tradition dating back to Dizzy Gillespie, Murray began looking to sounds from other cultures to feed his jazz. He's borrowed from the Carribean (Creole, released in 1998), Guadalupe (Yonn-De, from 2002) and now, Gillespie's beloved Cuba on the new Now is Another Time (released, like the others, on the Canadian label Justin Time).

"I'm not in everybody's faces," he said. "I'm in different people's faces all over the world. My mind is so far from New York at the moment. It's nice to be here, but I don't care to live here. I'm having the ball of my life right now."

The Cuban jazz he brought to the Knitting Factory shows that spirit. It's infectiously fun. But while the record was made with Cuban musicians (along with a few of his regular collaborators), the New York shows were a reunion of his old big band days, meaning pulling the musicians together and running charts with limited rehearsal time before the four-night stand.

Sixteen people, a baby grand, drums, congas, an upright bass, three trombones crossing over music stands, a five-strong sax section plus the bandleader and his unrivaled tenor were crowded onto the stage, the same stage where he held court on Monday nights for a good chunk of the '90s with his big band, often under the conduction of Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris. Rolls of sheet music fell from Murray's stand as he sang "New York, OK," then called "Sad Kind of Love."

"Ok, so y'all gotta groove with that," Murray said to the band. "It's weird, but ya gotta groove. You could even put it into a rock thing if you want - pah pah pah - but it's gotta lock. What's happening here is we're playing a ballad, and it's not going to get fast."

Much of his conducting during the rehearsal involved pointing heavenward with his right hand - always up, always more. Whatever project Murray takes on, he's unlikely to demand less than fire from is band. The band ran through some unmistakable Murray heads, vintage even, the pure sugar of albums like Shakill's Warrior, but with a Latin backbeat.

Whatever the influence, the Cuban here or the other "world music" projects he's taken on, the music swings. Taking the jazz out of David Murray would be something like taking the soft out of a pillow.

"It's jazz," he later affirmed. "It's my way of trying to seize something Latin inside what I'm doing.

"I started out studying the rhythms of the drums," he said. "I'm not a master of it. I just tried to study the masters." He cites Cuban pianist Monolito Simonet and flutist Jose Luis Cortez (who appears on the new record) as some of the sources to which he's been turning.

"It's not just me blowing my horn," he said. "You're going to countries, pacing out the project. I'm learning and I'm teaching. It takes me away from the mundaneness of what jazz has become. I think my life is a lot more exciting than a lot of jazz players."

Asked if he thinks he's fitting more into a world music than a jazz mold lately, he was careful not to commit.

"I haven't played at that many world music festivals, so I guess not," he said. "As long as I'm playing the jazz festivals, I guess what I'm doing is jazz. The European community is putting more white in it on the one side, I'm putting black in on the other. Me being an African, it's probably the truest thing I can do."

Still, he said, following the rhythms of the African diaspora isn't his sole ambition.

"I'm interested in China," he said. "There's so many curiosities in the world, for me to focus just on "I Got Rhythm" is kind of stupid."

But if his concert at the Knitting Factory was a cross pollinization, the Carnegie Hall night was pure jazz; if he was following in the tradition of Diz before, here he was touching on something that goes back to Charlie Parker with Strings. They played Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge," a piece dedicated to Curtis Mayfield and a second for John Coltrane, in which Murray went from 1958 to 1966 in the first two minutes, eclipsed Trane altogether from a moment, then landed squarely in the early Impulse! years and worked his way to 1968.

It's with no false modesty that he takes on Trane, and he can kick it with Prez and Bean, too. And when he skips across them all like a stone across the surface of a pond, that's pure Murray. He sells big ideas, and in the end you can't blame him for whatever it takes to get him where he's going. But ultimately it isn't big ideas he delivers. It's a variety of pastiches and facades, borrowings and labellings with the same saxophone he's been playing for decades. Which may sound like harsh criticism, but it isn't, for the simple reason that Murray is still about the best saxophonist in jazz. He's easily the most dextrous and soulful, and that's what he's paid for. He's not a conceptualist, and he's not even a great composer. Out of the scores of pieces he's composed, only a handful are really memorable (and perhaps only "Hope Scope" is truly great). But his huge tone and his rich soulfulness, not to mention his equally great bass clarinet playing, have been one of the pure treasures in jazz for three decades. The rest is just window dressing.

And somewhere, behind all the dedications and below the Ben Webster hat, Murray seems to know it.

"I believe in the past," he said. "You have to study the past to have a strong future. The history of jazz is so short, why not know everything?"



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