Sunny Murray/John Edwards/Tony Bevan

Boom Boom Cat
Foghorn FGCD 011

By Ken Waxman

Although Sunny Murray, the dean of American free jazz drumming, is the best-known player here, the success of Boom Boom Cat depends as much on the contributions of the other two musicians, who are more than mere sideman. Bassist John Edwards and saxophonist Tony Bevan are both an integral part of London’s free music scene, working with everyone from saxophonist Evan Parker to drummer Steve Noble.

Veterans of thrash-rock ensembles as well as low-key improv combos, the two confidently partner Murray, who now lives in Paris, every time he visits Great Britain. Despite being children when Murray redefined drumming in the mid-1960s with pianist Cecil Taylor and saxophonist Albert Ayler, Edwards and Bevan are as confident in this context as any other. Bevan’s floor-vibrating bass saxophone gets a major workout on the shorter “Ballad for G”. But his deft manipulation of all its timbres, as well as those of the tenor and soprano saxophones, is brought into starker relief on the nearly hour-long title track.

Perhaps appropriately Bevan’s intense flattement, triple tonguing and pressurized split tones on tenor recall Ayler’s characteristic work, especially when the tempo solidifies into a child-like march. His glossolalia and tension-laden staccatissimo compact stentorian timbres into screaming altissimo and then splinter downwards as Edwards keeps the excitement on a rolling boil with buzzing string slaps. Meanwhile Murray’s muscular strokes, pops and rumbles advance with constant stick motion and a fluid, elasticized rhythm. Edwards leaning into the beat and exposing harsh passages from the bottom register underlines Bevan’s lyrical soprano saxophone interlude. Later, the bassist’s crying spiccato lines make common cause with the saxophonist as Bevan’s bass horn propels gusts of pedal-point multiphonics. Subtly backing all this with minimized polyrhythms, Murray confirms his mastery with traffic cop-like directions for the others and a conclusive snare whack.

Respected for his innovations and longevity, this CD demonstrates that with the right associates, Murray’s music is as contemporary as today.

Tracks: Boom Boom Cat; Ballad for G

Personnel: Tony Bevan: soprano, tenor and bass saxophones; John Edwards: bass; Sunny Murray: drums

— For All About Jazz New York January 2011