Saturday, August 22, 2009

David Murray - Home (Black Saint, 1982)

I’m not alone in thinking that the octet configuration is where saxophonist and composer David Murray makes his most powerful statements. On this recording, his octet has a wonderful collection of talent including Henry Threadgill on alto saxophone, Olu Dara on trumpet, Butch Morris on cornet, George Lewis on trombone, Anthony Davis on piano, Wilber Morris on bass and Steve McCall on drums. The themes on this album are some of Murray’s finest and most memorable, and the arrangements are succinct and well done. Instead of starting the album with a swinging flag waver, Murray opts to begin with the title track, taken at mid-tempo and filled with emotion and longing. The sound is lush and poignant, steeped in empathy and compassion. "Santa Barbara and Crenshaw Follies" is one of the band’s highest peaks, a raucous, swinging and joyous blast of energy. Murray’s music had never sounded quite as fun as it does here as he takes a frenetic and very exciting solo over Davis’ percussive accompaniment. “Choctaw Blues” goes deep with Murray’s bass clarinet playing off nicely against Morris’ bowed bass as the other horns riff along. Coming back to tenor saxophone, Murray and the other horns make cacophonous improvisation over some excellent drumming from Steve McCall. “Last of the Hipmen” calms things down a little to a beautiful theme statement from to horns sounding much bigger then they are. They build into a medium tempo swing, making way for a bracing Threadgill solo, and a very nice spotlight for the leader on tenor saxophone. They wrap up the album with “3D Family” which is has an exciting full band intro, throwing storming riffs up against solos that peal like bells throughout the performance. This is a snapshot of David Murray at his most protean, when he was recording at a frantic pace and showing an alternate path to the stale stable of “young lions” that were being introduced at that time. The writing, arranging and performing are spot on here, and it is one of the brightest spots in David Murray’s very large discography.
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