David Murray, Interboogieology

Kevin Whitehead

By Kevin Whitehead

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Jazz took a conservative turn in the early '80s: think Wynton Marsalis, whose 1982 debut swore allegiance to 1965 Miles Davis. But back then even progressives were looking to the past, albeit a broader one. Some players — the term neo-classicists was bandied about — were hearing the whole panorama of jazz as source material for an organic style grown from old and new elements, the rowdy ones included.

The Black Saint debut of one of the finest tenor saxophonists of the last quarter of the 20th century.

David Murray was neo-classicism's poster kid. The tenor saxophonist had his own voice, early, but any well-versed jazz fan could hear generous helpings of mighty forebears: Ben Webster's big and bearish tone, rhythmic swagger, and tender stage-whispered ballads; Albert Ayler's Theremin-like upper-register keening; a gospel saxophonist's ecstatic falsetto (Murray can play entire solos up there); Eric Dolphy's careening from the bottom of the horn to the top (and back) in big staccato leaps. Like all of the above, Murray had — still has — a great sense of drama. He's also the first bass clarinetist of consequence to jazz since Dolphy died in 1964, with his own sweetly woody, almost bubbly sound on ballads, as he loudly popping notes from the mouthpiece like a novelty “gaspipe” clarinetist of the '20s.

His Black Saint debut Interboogieology is a rambunctious, rough-at-the-edges '70s free record, with Butch Morris on cornet, South Africa's Johnny Dyani on bass, and Steve Lacy's Paris-based drummer Oliver Johnson. Here you can really hear the Ayler echoes that Murray gradually played down (maybe because critics kept bringing them up), and there are two appearances by the strangely winning singer Marta Contreras, who yelps and oozes between everyone else's notes on “Namthini's Shadow,” and gives a Nico-flat reading of the lyric to the title tune.