David Murray, Ming

Britt Robson

By Britt Robson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
The rightful heir to Eric Dolphy’s crown of thorns.

Bop, free, funk and world music hybrids are all under the command of tenor saxophonist/bass clarinetist David Murray, the rightful heir to Eric Dolphy's crown of thorns. Murray's first masterpiece gets off to a blazing start with “The Fast Life,” which glides and collides with a bravura, glissando panache, noisy and frenetic but with joyful purpose, like a game of Red Rover on roller skates. “The Hill” is cleaved in two: Wilbur Morris's bowed bass personifies the blues lament of the climb; then the five-horn gaggle let loose for a celebratory pile-on during the joyful spree down the back side. “Ming,” an homage to Murray's wife, is a gorgeous, sonorous ballad that faithfully sounds like an incredibly smart and complicated 25-year old guy using elements of Ellington's “Melancholia” to announce ecstatic surrender to the love of his life. “Jasvan” is a cantering waltz stacked with brisk but substantial solos from George Lewis (trombone), Murray (on bass clarinet here), Butch Morris (cornet), Henry Threadgill (alto sax), Olu Dara (trumpet), Anthony Davis (piano) and Wilbur Morris (bass), yet somehow it is the late, great drummer Steve McCall who steals the show. “Dewey's Circle” concludes the set with infectious mirth, a holy alliance of New Orleans and Kansas City-style sass and erudite blues toastmastery. All five songs are by Murray, who expertly synthesizes and satisfies the often contradictory demands of the cerebral cortex and the tapping toe.