Wednesday, February 07, 2018

David Murray featuring Saul Williams - Blues for Memo (Motema Music, 2018)

The great tenor saxophonist and bass clarinet player David Murray combines talent poet Saul Williams on this interesting and successful meeting of improvised jazz and spoken word. They employ an excellent band featuring Orrin Evans on piano, Jaribu Shahid on bass, and Nasheet Waits on drums with additions from Craig Harris on trombone, Jason Moran on keyboards, (Murray’s son) Mingus Murray on guitar, Aytac Dogan on Qanun and Pervis Evans on vocals. "A Mirror of Youth" has strident spoken word with bright piano chords and active percussion. Murray’s saxophone bobs and weaves amidst the stream of words, getting progressively stronger but keeping a groove going aside strong rhythmic drumming. This creates a full band performance with vocals well integrated into the whole. There is bass integrating with words on “Cycles and Seasons” strumming in a percussive manner, plus droplets of piano notes, developing a choppy rhythm and cadence allowing Murray to shade and frame the music while biding his time, building a tight full band outing with strongly comped piano and gritty saxophone solo.  “Blues for Memo”has mysterious plucked guitar strings creating a haunting opening that becomes a more mellow mid tempo track with added brass. The music is spacious sounding, and members respectful of others' space as Murray enters midway through with patient and probing solo. The uptempo instrumental playing on “Obe” meets the socially conscious poetry head on, with cascading piano and percussion and steaming tenor saxophone driving the music forward with subtle brass commenting. A torrent of words and drum rhythms emerges with lyrics evoking the late arranger Butch Morris. Guitar with bass clarinet and words open “Citizens” with a choppy start stop rhythmic structure and trombone accents adding heft and depth to the performance, with a lush and flowing piano section aside bass and drums support. Bowed bass and sung lyrics then bass clarinet blows with quiet grace, taking the piece out. “Red Summer” features soulful a gospel sound, and heavy lyrics about the Charleston shooting, and shootings of unarmed black people in America. The song evokes civil rights and and Martin Luther King backed by piano trio. Murray breaks through like a ray of sunlight with a powerful tenor saxophone solo that is very moving then frames and accents the singing. There is an excellent and unexpected Sun Ra cover, “Enlightenment,” sounding bright and bouncy, and Murray and pianist sound inspired by this choice. Trombone arcs across the music like a shooting star, hinting slyly at “Space is the Place” before the full band brings it home nicely, adding a bass and drum solo for good measure. Blues for Memo -

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