David Murray

Dark Star: The Music of the Grateful Dead

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The avant-garde tenor and bass clarinetist David Murray had an opportunity to sit in with the Grateful Dead in 1993 and was quite impressed. With Jerry Garcia's death, Murray was inspired to put together this tribute album but often it sounds as if two bands were playing at once without closely listening to each other. Murray and the horns (which include veteran altoist James Spaulding, the very impressive high-note acrobatics of trumpeter Hugh Ragin, either James Zoller or Omar Kabir on second trumpet and the adventurous trombonist Craig Harris) romp through some rowdy and very emotional ensembles while organist Robert Irving III. (a Miles Davis alumnus) leads the rhythm section through groovin' R&B riffs that seem to ignore the lead voices. The results are often quite silly as the horns screech and squawk while the rhythm churns on. There are two exceptions. The 16-minute "Dark Star" builds slowly to a ferocious level and finds the group acting as one while the closing "Shoulda Had Been Me" is a tenor-guitar duet between Murray and Bob Weir that works quite well. So overall this is a mixed bag, most highly recommended to listeners who have a high tolerance level and a strong sense of humor.

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