Sunday, January 01, 2012

David Murray Octets - The Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint and Soul Note (Black Saint/Soul Note, 2011)

During the lengthy career of saxophone and bass clarinet player David Murray, he has performed in a number of contexts from solo to big band. Perhaps none of his groups had the power and audacity of his octet recordings. This boxed set collects the octet recordings he made for the Italian Black Saint and Soul Note record labels. These records were made from 1980 - 1988 and include the albums Ming, Home, Murray’s Steps, Hope Scope and New Life. Apart from Murray, the albums are filled with a veritable who’s who of progressive jazz talent of the time including Henry Threadgill on alto saxophone and flute, Bobby Bradford and Butch Morris on trumpet and cornet and Steve McCall on drums. Every one of the enclosed albums has commendable music upon it, like the blasting up-tempo little big band jazz of New Life which finds the octet playing with renewed spirit after a few years of sabbatical. Hope Scope has a more elegiac and backward looking tinge to it, with moods and textures out front and Murray showing his often overlooked lyrical side, especially on ballad performances. Murray’s Steps showcases one of his most well known compositions, “Flowers for Albert” written for free -jazz icon Albert Ayler, but also demonstrating how Murray had moved beyond strict free-jazz, combining it with swing, bop, and even touches of rhythm and blues to make a unique statement. “Sweet Lovely” and “Sing Song” also offer superb flute solos from Henry Threadgill. further adding to the depth and texture of the music. Dedicated to his wife, Ming is considered to be one of Murray’s finest LPs and one of the best jazz albums of the 1980’s. This also contains some well known Murray compositions, making the case for him as a composer of note as well as a powerhouse soloist. “Fast Life” and “The Hill” would return later on in his discography as title tracks to albums, and the beauty of the deeply emotional and interwoven “Ming” and plangent soloing on “Dewey’s Circle” are equally memorable. The music on this collection is highly recommended, and represents some of David Murray’s finest recorded output to date. Collected in a box, each album has a cardboard reproduction of the original album cover reduced to CD size, which means that the liner notes are in a microscopic font. New essays, photos and liner notes would have been great, but you hardly notice they are missing once this amazing music begins playing. The Complete Remastered Recordings -

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