Death of a Sideman

David Murray Quartet

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Death of a Sideman Review

by Brian Olewnick

Though issued under David Murray's name, this might be more properly considered a Bobby Bradford album, as he wrote all of the material and plays cornet as a quintet member throughout. Designed as a series of reflections on the life of the kind of musician who toils away out of the limelight, doing a good workmanlike job and, eventually, dying without having received any recognition, the suite has something of an elegiac tone. "Have You Seen Sideman?," which opens and closes the album, contains a sad wistfulness, as though bemoaning chances not taken, avenues not pursued. Bradford, an early associate of Ornette Coleman, here teams up once again with Ornette's drummer of choice, Ed Blackwell, and the two have some spirited exchanges on pieces like "Woodshedetude." His work is calmly supple throughout, providing a valuable counterweight to Murray's stratospheric flights. A duo of the two horns, "Sidesteps," achieves the beauty of a quiet, deep conversation and is a highlight of this disc. The late rhythm team of Hopkins and Blackwell are a joy to hear, and when they are joined by Dave Burrell (who appears on less than half the cuts), things gel to a point where few horn players could possibly have a bad day playing along. Bradford's compositions are varied and loose, adhering to relatively traditional structures (in an Ornette sense, anyway) while allowing for stretching and expansiveness. The solos flow naturally out of the thematic material without the theme-solos-theme rigidity that often hampers this type of approach. Death of a Sideman is one of the stronger efforts in Murray's mature catalog, thanks in no small part to the presence and guiding hand of Bobby Bradford. Recommended.

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