David Murray, Ballads for Bass Clarinet

Kevin Whitehead

By Kevin Whitehead

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A bass clarinet showcase.

Murray's obvious strengths as a tenor saxophonist tend to eclipse his gifts on bass clarinet, that big odd horn that looks a bit like an anorexic tenor, and sounds in the same range, but with a sweeter, woody tone. No one in jazz after Eric Dolphy has done as much with that axe as Murray, making especially welcome this showcase recorded in 1991, whose title says it all. For rhythmic emphasis, he'll occasionally pop notes loudly from his mouthpiece, a favorite gambit of 1920s novelty "gaspipe" clarinetists; the man has deep roots. The crack backing trio is pianist John Hicks, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Idris Muhammad.