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|Reviews that mention Paul Murphy
Shadow Intersections West
Cadence Jazz CJR 1160
Leo Records LR 399
Trios made up of an alto saxophonist, a percussionist and a cellist are the points of comparison between these two sessions. Yet despite the similarities each is different in execution, if not conception.
Nominally under the leadership of veteran Washington, D.C.-based percussionist Paul Murphy, who made his name played with the late saxophonists Jimmy Lyons and Glenn Spearman, the first CD features nine instant compositions with considerable input from the other players. Theyre Bay area alto man Marco Eneidi, another close Spearman associate, and cellist Kash Killion, who at one point was in Sun Ras Arkestra. Improvisational to the max, the only criticism that can be leveled at the performance is that most tunes merely stop, without really reaching a climax or conclusion.
As group-improvised as the other disc, CONFLUXUS avoids some of those abrupt endings, but that may be because cellist Brent Arnold and alto saxophonist Wally Shoup have been playing together since the mid-1990s. Someone who has done string arrangements and played for singers Sleater-Kinney, Arnold appears content to mostly stay in the background and provide the pulse on which the other two vibrate. Japan-born, Philadelphia-based percussionist Toshi Makihara has performed with experimental music ensembles plus dance and theatre companies. His association with Shoup began in 1999 when the two recorded with Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore. Someone who has followed a singular path for many years, reedist Shoup has recorded with New York bassist Reuben Radding and played with just about every outside musician who comes through Seattle.
Mixing influences that take in pre-and-post-electric Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus, the Murphy three work out heads that vary according to the prominence of each instrument. Unamplified, Killions playing can suggest that of an electric bass, then turn around and outline the most legitimate sounding cello tone. Spiccato, his splayed timbres enliven most of the output, and there are times you could swear hes using both a piccolo fiddle and a double bass. Walking bass lines arent foreign to him either.
Supple in his power and restraint, textural rumbles and bounces characteristic Murphys playing. He also avoids excessive percussion displays. Commanding when he applies bass drum pedal pressure or keeps up ride cymbal action, it often appears as if hes teasing his snares, rather than playing them. Metallic-like cuts from Killions cello and single note expositions from Eneidi are met with the same equanimity from Murphy.
Taking a lead role, the alto man sticks to extended techniques in his solos, though there are times intimations of standards can almost be heard. On Ghibli, for instance, his timbres are lengthened to such an extent that a drastic recasting of Somewhere is implied. Beginning with two minutes of up-and-down trills and sideslipping slurs, double tonguing finally ushers the other two into the piece with cymbal color and double-stopping. Eneidi completes the cycle with double and triple tonguing, harsh smears and extended snaps and growls. The cellist provides spiccato friction and Murphy rumbles. Finally as the reedist hurls single notes as a thematic reprise, the tune gradually fades away.
Locked-Up is frenzied quasi-bop, encompassing rattling cymbals and a steady bass pulse. As the saxists jagged trills and repetitive triads are spit out fast and furious, he could be playing Salt Peanuts. Murphys contribution is snare color and bomb dropping as the piece gets more intense and double quick. With broken octaves, Eneidis diminuendo finds him caressing the lines and ending by playing Broadway show-tune-like constructions.
Rouge, which takes on a Mingusian cast through Killions bass strings, finds the altoist moving from breathy John Handy -- with Mingus -- territory to sharp, resonating reed vibrations that turn brutal and abstract. Everything is framed by single whaps and reverberating rolls from Murphy and double-stopping from Killion. Reed snorts and flattement then slow down the cellist to isolated picking and the drummer to individual pops or cymbal shimmers.
SHADOW INETSRSECTION WEST has definite track breaks, while the 10 tunes that make up the other CD often seem as they are one continuous suite. Throughout, Arnold usually confines himself to polyphonic note doubling with the saxophonist, counterpoint accompaniment, centred pizzicato runs, droning ponticello continuum and flat-picking near the tuning pegs.
This last gesture follows a section in Inside Straight when Arnold maintains dialogue with Shoups spetrofluctuation with pulsating cross bowing. Makihara contributes scurrying squirrel-like scratches, rim shots and press rolls. Other places however, Shoup comes up with crow-cawing striated tonal undulations that Makihara matches with what sounds like hand drumming.
Although the reedists m.o. often includes sideslipping, piercing growls and other extended techniques played at a rapid pace, there are a few instances when slower tempi are called for and utilized. Luminage is one of the former. Here tongue slaps and buzzed split tones from Shoup face ratcheting scrapes and constant concussions from Makihara, as Arnold shuffles out tremolo double string bowing. Pushing into the realm of odd metered sounds and friction, the cellists ponticello drone adds to a straight on cymbal and a snare attack from the drummer as Shoup, with an even more abstract and diffuse timbre, continues to squeal lustily.
As for the later, Double Pump is all waggling lines twisted and doubled built on flute like-cadences from the cello. Meantime Shoup adapts an almost Eastern European stuttering tone from the alto, stridently ascending to dragged nail on blackboard timbre and the drummer follows suit with ratchets and direct kit hits.
For a finale, Fault Line finds Shoup almost mellow and Arnold undeniably legato as the two mesh for a jagged cello and sax duet. As the saxman descends from some muezzin-like extended pulses to deeper-pitched honks and snores, the cello line follows him southwards. Ending is the unison expelling of stammering flutter tonguing and a low string swell.
With the right people and techniques involved, sax, drums and cello are perfectly adequate for expressing the most complex musical ideas.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Confluxus: 1. Two Breaths Away 2. Joyride 3. Inside Straight 4. Convergence for Three 5. Secret Tear 6. Luminage 7. Con Fluxus 8. Double Pump 9. Conversance 10. Fault Line
Personnel: Confluxus: Wally Shoup (alto saxophone); Brent Arnold (cello); Toshi Makihara (drums)
Track Listing: Shadow: 1. Outlines 2, Spectral Traces 3. Ghibli 4. Duo 5. Winds Run 6. Ixion 7. Rouge 8. Jacinthe 9. Locked-Up
Personnel: Shadow: Marco Eneidi (alto saxophone); Kash Killion (cello); Paul Murphy (drums)
January 10, 2005
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1167
Of paramount historical, rather than musical, interest RED SNAPPER is a CD of never-commercially-available short improvisations by combinations of musicians under the leadership of veteran drummer Paul Murphy.
Washington, D.C-based Murphys highest profile came during the 12 years in the 1970s and 1980s when he anchored different bands led by alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons. Lyons is all over these 19 tracks, professionally recorded at Columbia Records former studio in 1982. Also present is trumpeter Dewey Johnson, who played on John Coltranes ASCENSION and Paul Bleys BARRAGE in the mid-1960s. Additional sounds come from pianist/vocalist Mary Anne Driscoll, as well as bassoonist Karen Borca, Lyons wife, who made up a trio with Lyons and Murphy at that time.
Lyons rarely recordedoutside his regular gig as Cecil Taylors right hand man. So its particularly gratifying to hear his characteristic elastic tone all over these tracks. Murphy, who literally dropped out of jazz for almost two years following Lyons death in 1986, was obviously simpatico, and you can hear that give and take in their duets.Tragically, Johnson seems to be someone never forgiven by the neo-cons for the excesses of the New Thing. Reduced to working full-time as a maintenance employee at a large factory by the 1990s, he was recently reported to be homeless, living somewhere in New York City.
Playing in trio formation with Murphy and Driscoll, as he does on The Scenery 1 and The Scenery 2, his brassy cadences and braying chromatic choruses retain the 1960s resonance. Slurring out extended sets of triplets in the trumpets higher registers may fit tongue-in-groove with the pianists modal sheets of sound and the drummers rolling and roistering, but they wouldnt have got him a gig in the neo-cons heyday of the 1980s and 1990s.
Murphy, who returned to jazz in the 1990s and has since worked with bassist William Parker and pianist Larry Willis among others, also plays spectacularly at points. On Steppin Out 3, for instance, his double time flams, bounces and overall groove helps Lyons focus his virtuosity. Here the reedist produces a line made up of skyward screams that gradually settle into a theme reminiscent both of the Woody Woodpecker theme and Jump Up, his most famous composition.
On Steppin Up, Lyons sounds out spiky note extensions with sideslipping slurs and altissimo slides. Not only does he use echo, but at times his tones also seem to be answering themselves. Steppin Out 1, on the other hand, finds him at his most harmonic, or at least as tonal as one can be while speedily triple tonguing irregular vibrations and trills. With Murphys rolls in the background, the woodpecker intonation vies with memories of Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman. On Duo 2, again with the drummer, somehow Lyons manages to produce reedy notes that sound as if they come from an accordion.
That said, it still should be pointed out that much of this disc is reminiscent of an extended rehearsal tape. With 19 selections ranging in length from barely more than one minute to almost 5½ --and four of those are a Murphy drum solo -- concepts are too often truncated. Everyone involved has good ideas -- and expresses them. But few are allowed to develop much past theme statements or solo virtuosity. Lyons and Johnson never play on the same track, for instance. Sure you can admire Borcas flutter tonguing her double reed and making it jump through aural hoops at warp speed, or Murphys rim shots and bomb dropping, but on a more formal date these would add up to more than isolated virtuosity. Driscoll also sings Innocent Incidents, a Murphy-penned ballad of lost romance. Lets just say her voice is better than the lyrics deserve.
RED SNAPPER is aimed at completists who cant get enough of Lyons -- or Johnson -- or the New Thing in Jazz that was being dismissed as old hat by 1982. Others will have to decide whether exceptional playing and good sentiments can overcome abbreviated running times and severed connections.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Sailing Out 2. Setting Out 3. The Scenery 1 4. Wild Reed 5. Steppin Out 1 6. The Scenery 2 7. Reeding Room 8. Steppin Out 2 9. The Scenery 3 10. Steppin Out 3 11. Steppin Up 12. Mellow 1 13. Mellow 2 14. Innocent Incidents* 15. Duo 1 16. Duo 2 17. Duo 3 18. Red Snapper part 1 19. Red Snapper part 2
Personnel: Dewey Johnson (trumpet); Jimmy Lyons (alto saxophone); Karen Borca (bassoon); Mary Anne Driscoll (piano, vocal*); Paul Murphy (drums)
May 31, 2004
The Box Set
Ayler aylcd 036-040
Charlie Rouse with Thelonious Monk, Paul Desmond with Dave Brubeck and Harry Carney with Duke Ellington are three saxophone players who signed on for such long stays with the aggregations of well-known pianists, that their individual achievements were subsumed in the composer/keyboardists visions.
Unfortunately, alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons (1931-1986) is another example of this. Aide-de-camp to pianist Cecil Taylor from 1961 until shortly before his death from lung cancer, he like Rouse, Carney, and possibly Desmond, was so much part of the Taylor sound that he was consistently undervalued on his own. Worse, or better, depending on how the person viewed Taylors music, Lyons was also often described as merely a misplaced bopper whose steadying presence helped amplify some of the pianists more outside ideas.
In truth, Lyons also recorded on his own and played with his own groups during this period, but with much less fanfare. Plus, as this lovingly prepared five-CD set demonstrates, the saxist was, in a purely musical way, like one of those seemingly milquetoast businessmen who turn out to have a debauched secret sex life. The performances here -- which range from solo to quartet dates -- show that Lyons was very much his own man. Not only had he mastered many of Taylors individualistic free sound preoccupations, but he was also a sound tutor who helped point the way for musicians who later joined Taylors bands and/or established their own careers.
It goes without saying that its impossible -- not to mention self-defeating -- to try to listen to the almost 6½ hours of music here at once. Savoring one disc at a time, or skipping among the selections is a better strategy. As a guide, a 62-page booklet, chock full of biographical, discographical and recording data is included.
Tellingly, some of the most impressive sounds can be found on the first and final CDs, which are also the only two that showcase quartets -- two completely different ones at that. The first -- recorded at New Yorks famed Studio Rivbea -- features Lyons in the company of a very young trumpeter Raphe Malik -- four years before he first recorded with Taylor -- veteran drummer Syd Smart, who has been based in the Boston area for many years and the late Buffalo-born bassist Hayes Burnett, who also toured with Sun Ras Arkestra.
The last, recorded at Massachusetts Tufts University, a year before Lyons death, but when he was already ill, finds his alto tone considerably deeper, but without any loss of brightness or lack of ideas. His helpmates here are the altoists longtime partner, bassoonist Karen Borca; drummer Paul Murphy, who was Lyons drummer from 1978 until the end; and bassist William Parker, then part of Taylors band and since then one of the most prodigiously recorded jazzers.
In 1972, a year after he had major surgery to correct a congenital lung disorder, Lyons was at the top of his form, as her shows in a program that mixes freebop, ballads and Jump Up, one of his best-know compositions. That tune is given the full treatment, with each man proffering sequentially linked phrases that further amplify the diatonic figures. Although Smarts drumming is so overbearing, with its martial bangs and cymbal smashes, that it almost buries the solid bass playing, the front line fares better. Malik proffers a brassy twist to Lyons bounding work, until the altoist turns from trading phrases with him to literally answering himself. Mr. 1-2-5 Street, on the other hand, is a straight, freeboppy blues with walking bass and the drummer bearing down on the skins. Lyons constructs his solo out of slight sound shards, while the trumpeter concentrates on burnished notes, and bent, open-horn rubato shakes.
Gossip finds Malik blowing out grace notes and emphasized repeated phrases on its almost Middle Eastern-sounding head in such a way that his output sounds Louis Armstrong-like brassy. Smarts rages over the entire kit are firmly in the style of Sunny Murray, with whom Lyons would go on to record a memorable session in 1980.
Flash forward to 1985 and the Dolphyesque cast to Lyons playing is gone, replaced by a more compressed tone that often slides into the tenor register. With his emphasis on melody and interpolation of a quote from Don Cherrys Awake Nu on Tortuga, another often-recorded composition, you can hear Lyons links to Charlie Parker, filtered through a more modern fillip. By this point, squeals and squeaks often arise spontaneously from the playing of both Lyons and Borca, but not enough to disrupt the musics flow. Plus, with a rhythm section like Murphy and Parker present, the performance is traditional enough to offer solo room to everyone.
As it would on anything recorded with Lyons for years before this, Borcas tangy bassoon timbres give the group a sound unlike any others. It even gives new resonance to Wee Sneezawee, which is tackled less successfully in a trio format on Disc 4. Here though Borcas multi-shaded, bubbling bassoon pitches mix with Murphys rolling rim shots and resonating cymbals plus Parkers unvarying pulse to properly cushion Lyons version of the theme and its final reprise. Bull fiddle plucks take nearly every available space on After You Left as well, which evolves into a duet between Parkers string sounds and Lyons warm legato tone.
Murphy shines on pieces like Shakin Back, named for Lyons grandfathers fried chicken restaurant. Busier than in earlier sessions, he breaks up the time with rolling asides and quick flams as Parker presses straight ahead and the alto man honks. It should be pointed out that tape hiss is most apparent during Parkers solo, but that probably results from the engineer overloading the circuits to catch Lyons and Borca trading fours far away from the mic.
Lyons, Murphy and Borca recording as a trio the year before, try to reach these heights, but lacking a chordal instrument of any type puts all the pressure on Murphy, especially as each of the horn players lays out for a time during the others solo. Using the solid, piquant textures of the bassoon to create presto portamento tones, Borca manages to expand her timbre without busting it and showcases some freak register slurs on an another version of Shakin Back. Yet with only an occasional trill from Lyons, the drummer can be only so inventive with his rolls, bounces and paradiddles.
What does come out, however, especially when the three move through Lyons standards like Wee Sneezawee, is the alto man insuring that the lyric and harmonic parts of the tune arent neglected. As tones move among the three, the bassoons rumbling, growling buzzsaw tone provides the pedal point riffs and the alto wide siren slurs. On his own without Taylor, Lyons, the melody man, appears to be playing more outside than with his longtime keyboard associate.
Maddeningly, six solo outings, recorded at New Yorks Soundscape confirm and deny this observation. Building some of the reed showcases out of saxophone finger exercises and other parts of his practice regime, Lyons screams and overblows at times, but with definite purposes in mind. On Clutter, the longest tune of the set, he seems to be trying out various pitches and timbres for size. He speeds up and slows down the instant composition, double tongues, reed bites and overblows certain sections. At the same time among the honking harshness he manages to quote from both Monks boppish Bemsha Spring and the ballad It Might As Well Be Spring.
Moving from Spring to Autumn and back a few years, Lyons trio session at Studio Rivbea from 1975 is unfortunately the weakest link here. Playing at much greater length than elsewhere -- Family clocks in at almost 41½ minutes and Heritage I at slightly less than 37½, for instance -- Lyons appears to be in a Sonny Rollins mould circa East Broadway Rundown. Problem is that Burnetts rubbery and thumpy bass lacks the staying power that someone like Parker -- or one of Rollins bassists like Henry Grimes or Jimmy Garrison -- could bring to a trio display. When he bangs his fist against the wood of his axe on Family, for instance, he sounds more frustrated than rhythmic. Bowing widely and abstractly and splitting his tones into atom-like phrases at the end somehow compensates for earlier hesitation.
Drummer Henry Letcher, who after his 18 month tenure with Lyons went on to play with the Merrymakers calypso band and manage a West Indian radio station, is also no Murphy or Smart. Concentrating for the most part on hard triples from his snare and repeated rolls, his ornamentation soon fades into constant identical whacks that are intense, yet rarely advance the composition. Playing at his most minimal here, Lyons offers up almost split-second phrases, which are no sooner sheared from the reed than replaced by others. At points he introduces glossolalia, a very unusual move for the restrained urban player that he was. With a diminuendo of mouse-like squeaking trills dribbling out to finish the piece, it appears to end with allusions to Reveille.
Besides all this music, a short, recorded interview with Lyons from 1978 is included. Its most noteworthy because Lyons, who was mostly self-taught after learning the horns rudiments from former Fletcher Henderson band clarinetist Buster Bailey, reveals that following a jam session meeting, Count Basie reed soloist Rudy Rutherford also gave him some formal pointers.
This box set of live dates doubles the number of CDs currently available under Lyons name. Unlike some players, associates report that he was so fastidious that he wouldnt record until he thought that he was truly ready. Everything was done on his terms or not at all, which means that many memorable improvisations have been lost forever. Thus this live set will be welcomed by anyone interested in the man and the currents of music flowing in the 1970s and 1980s.
Perhaps Letcher can have the last word when discussing Lyons and the time within which he played. A lot of other musicians got lost in revolutionary thought as opposed to music, he notes. But Jimmy was totally about music.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: CD 1: 1. Jump Up 2. Gossip 3. Ballad One 4. Mr. 1-2-5 Street 5. Jump Up #2 6. Round Midnight CD 2: 1. Family 2. Heritage I CD 3: 1. Heritage I 2. Clutter 3. Mary Mary Intro 4. Never 5. Configuration C 5. Repertoire Riffin 6. Improv Scream & Clutter II CD 4: 1. Wee Sneezawee 2. After You Left 3. Theme 4. Shakin Back 5. Good News Blues 6. WKCR Interview CD 5: 1. Wee Sneezawee 2. After You Left 3. Tortuga 4. Gossip 5. Shakin Back 6. Driads 7. Jump Up
Personnel: Raphe Malik (trumpet [CD 1]); Jimmy Lyons (alto saxophone); Karen Borca (bassoon [CD 4 and 5]); William Parker [CD 5], Hayes Burnett [CD 1, 2 and 3] (bass); Syd Smart [CD 1] Henry Letcher [CD 2]; Paul Murphy, [CD 4 and 5](drums)
January 5, 2004
PAUL MURPHY TRIO
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1147
Unjustly unknown, drummer Paul Murphy is a veteran free jazzer whose experience goes back to membership in various groups led by Jimmy Lyons in the 1970s and 1980s. His highest profile -- if anything in Free Jazz has a high profile --came in the late 1990s, when he held the drum chair in Trio Hurricane, a band completed by tenor saxophonist Glenn Spearman and bassist William Parker.
Washington, D.C.-based Murphy still plays with whomever he can on either coast, and this memorable session shows that his mixture of force and finesse is easily put to good use. Most noteworthy is his style, which can be summed up as presence without pulverization. You can sense Murphys skills on each of the five instant compositions here. But he doesnt feel it necessary to take an official solo until the final track. Even then, he only plays absolutely alone for no more than one minute each at the beginning and at the end. He knows that drum solos are like perfume, the least obvious is the most potent.
In addition, the drummers co-workers operate at the same high level. Theyre comparable veteran improvisers, whose fame doesnt begin to approach their talents. Virginia-based pianist Joel Futterman is often found playing in bands with New Orleans tenor saxist Kidd Jordan and Mississippi drummer Alvin Fielder. Cellist Kash Killion performed with such improv notables as bandleaders/theorists Butch Morris and Sun Ra and tenor saxist Pharoah Sanders. Decade long collaborations with the drummer and each other characterize the sound of the two.
At this point abstract jazz has a tradition too; you can see its shape in the hands of these adept musicians. At almost 31 minutes, twice as long as any other track, SFERICS is plainly the discs centrepiece.
At the core of that improvisation is Murphy, keeping up a constant barrage of shaded percussion sounds. As he move things along, Futterman explorers dissonant keyboard chording, usually at a high pitch so that the notes can easily dart among Killions nimble cello strokes. Roaming and octave jumping, the pianist references Cecil Taylor, but his up-and-down motion is actually more conservative than Taylors academic anarchistic approach. Theres even a section where he seems to be sounding out an arch-romantic interlude as the cellist picks out jazz-like lines and Murphy displays the tidal wave force of his kit.
Killion can switch between arco and pizzicato in a heartbeat. At one point he involves himself in some Wily E. Coyote stealth, sneaking up on the theme as if it was the Roadrunner, as the piano follows behind, leaving a bird seed trail of harmonically-oriented accented grace notes. Later, as Futterman begins verbally communicating with his axe -- the cellist mumbled encouragement to his instrument earlier on -- the piano man appears to be working himself up to a mouth foaming frenzy. Before that happens though, the cellist returns with some quick plinks and string whaling, implying that vibrating sticks have been placed between the strings for extra bounce.
Futterman retreats to the highest register of his piano, as Murphys bop-shaded cymbal work gives way to an assembly line of perfectly placed beats. As the intensity builds it seems as if this is going to be one of the few jazz-inflected improvisations thats all tension, no relief. Ultimately, though, as each trio member throws great handfuls of single notes into the hailstorm the composition has become, it winds down, ending on a single plucked cello note.
Apart from Murphys solo ZYGOUN is an abbreviated follow up to SFERICS, quieter with the drummer manipulating his cymbals so delicately that they could be vibes. But with his trap work only serves to bring the piano trouncing and cellos basso swoops into finer focus.
Earlier, Killion shows that he can not only slide with barbed wire force with his bow, but generate mewling, high-pitched single string lines that almost sound as if they come from a flute. Throughout, if necessary, he provides triple or quadruple stops or a constant pedal point. Meanwhile Murphy spatters his time-keeping in irregular beats, often more felt than heard and Futtermans dynamic touch involves slipping, sliding and spilling all over keys.
Once the CD ends, youll probably be asking yourself how it is youve never heard of Murphy, Killion and Futterman before, and what more you can do to rectify the situation.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. D1T1 2. Desert Fire 3. Intersections 4. SFERICS 5. ZYGOUN
Personnel: Joel Futterman (piano); Kash Killion (cello); Paul Murphy (drums)
May 5, 2003