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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke

Like a kiss that never ends
Justin Time Just 153-2


It is gratifying to hear that David Murray can still produce a decent straight-ahead jazz album that is not tied into a concept or a tribute. Recent years have seen his work – as leader and with the World Saxophone Quartet – dominated by both. Tributes to Julius Hemphill, Don Pullen, Miles Davis, The Grateful Dead and John Coltrane immediately spring to mind, as do several albums with African singers and percussionists. All of those had their merits, and some were downright excellent (notably, the Coltrane tribute with his octet), but this set has a refreshing simplicity to it.

This Power Quartet (with John Hicks on piano, Ray Drummond on bass and Andrew Cyrille on drums) is aptly named. Murray’s own playing on tenor sax often attracts such adjectives as “muscular” and “beefy” to describe the full, rich tone he achieves and also the sheer stamina he displays. However, “powerful” is the most apt description. Hicks, Drummond and Cyrille are a superb team throughout. They are showcased as a trio for much of “Mo’ Bass (For The Bulldog)”, an atmospheric and adventurous piece.

The title track has a highly danceable Latin rhythm most reminiscent of Sonny Rollins. Long term Murray fans may compare it to “Ming’s Samba”. “Suki Suki Now”, another Murray original that also features on the new WSQ album in a different version, is also rhythmically compelling. On both, Murray is happy to occasionally break out of the confines of the rhythm, playing the freer soaring lines that are so typical of him. As ever, his playing straddles traditions, owing as much to Ben Webster as to Albert Ayler.

“Ruben’s Theme Song” is highly reminiscent of the old Motown song, “He Was Really Saying Something”. As Murray served his teenage apprenticeship in a soul band, it is not surprising that he can still do a passable imitation of King Curtis. The closing track, Monk’s “Let’s Cool One”, has Murray on bass clarinet, his more deliberate playing providing an effective contrast to his sax.

Although only in his mid-40s, Murray already has a vast discography, big enough to rival those of Braxton, Lacy and Konitz. But with some of his best work released on the Japanese label DIW, it has been difficult (or expensive!) to obtain. So it is a pleasure to welcome a Murray album that is both easily obtainable and musically rewarding.

John Eyles

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