Tuesday, July 24, 2018

David Murray - Ming's Samba (Portrait Records, 1988)

The great tenor saxophonist and bass clarinet player David Murray was riding high in the late 1980's recording albums for a number of labels including Black Saint, DIW and more. Some really great albums kind of got lost in the shuffle, and this is one of his best small group albums of the period. This set has a great ensemble featuring Ray Drummond on bass, Ed Blackwell on drums and John Hicks on piano and they revolve around a combination of compositions by Murray and Butch Morris. Dedications abound in this swinging and mainstream recording starting with the the Murray original title track "Ming's Samba" dedicated to his wife which is a nearly eleven minute joyride that allows the rhythm section considerable freedom to push and pull the rhythm, keeping the performance fresh even at this length and giving Murray the opportunity to take an expansive and powerful tenor saxophone solo swooping up into the higher registers and bellowing into the depths with a free and fierce spirit. They swing hard and true on "Remembering Fats (For Fat's Waller)" and original that taps into the rhythmic passion of Waller's music and the populism of the 1930's building to a bright and exciting performance. Hicks is particularly potent on this performance, he had the agility like the masters akin to Jaki Byard of playing in any form from stride to free and he makes the most of this opportunity with a brisk and sparkling solo. This is followed up with a couple of compositions by one of Murray's closest confidants the great composer, arranger and cornet player Butch Morris who was a linchpin of Murray's great octet and big band recordings of the period. The unique and influential nature of Morris's writing is on excellent display on the short track "Nowhere Ever After" and the longer "Spooing" that allows the group to enjoy the freedom of the angular theme and the allowances for some excellent solo statements. This highly recommended album concludes with a dedication to Murray's father, the beautiful "Walter's Waltz" where the leader turn's to bass clarinet, developing a deep and hollow sound that provides excellent texture for a deep and moving performance. Ming's Samba - amazon.com

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