July 12, 2007
By Ken Waxman
Souvenir of the time when American tenor saxophonist David Murray appeared to be the future of advanced jazz, this 70½ minutes of music recorded at the Willisau Jazz Festival in 1978 aptly illustrates his contemporary appeal.
Barely 23 years old at the time, the saxophonist composed the CDs four long tracks. Influenced equally by mainstreamer Paul Gonsalves and avant-gardist Albert Ayler, Murray brings a dramatic moderato approach to the haunting balladic melodies and altissimo harsh torque to the shrill Energy Music implications.
Backing the tyro reedist are two musicians notable on their own. Expatriate South African Johnny Dyani (1945-1986), then a European resident, was bassist of choice for Boppers and free players alike. His apparently effortless shift between wriggling plucked textures on faster numbers and arco flageolet harmonics on the more restrained tunes explains his reputation. Another versatile player, whose career includes years seconding Cecil Taylor, is drummer Andrew Cyrille. His internal rhythmic clock advanced with shattering cymbal accents, cross-patting and short strokes on drum tops, keep the beat nimble yet definitive, only rarely adding parade-drill-like ballast, thick press rolls or ratamacues.
Reaching a notable climax, the final call-and-response Shout Song finds Murray expressing himself in note flurries, elongating the wistful theme at the finale with squeaks and slurs, as Dyanis double-stopping accompaniment in broken octaves.
Taking the performance as a whole however, includes hints that the saxophonist, whose future CDs would encompass Africanized rhythms, R&B emulations and straight-ahead combo work, even then was more a fellow traveler to Free Jazz than fully committed to it.
In MusicWorks Issue #98