David Murray

Flowers Around Cleveland

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Flowers Around Cleveland Review

by Thom Jurek

This 1995 Paris date made with members of Steve Lacy's sextet -- pianist Bobby Few, bassist J.J. Avenel, and drummer John Betsch -- reveals a natural affinity between Murray and this trio. There was little rehearsal, just a quick run-through of the proposed material and then the session. From the opener of Murray's "Fantasy Rainbow," with its gliding lyric, easy 6/8 groove, and Avenel's slippery, backhanded counter-rhythmic support, Murray and Few float through one another, winding figures across intervals and knotting them so tightly they can not be untied in the solos. Murray's soulful touch here is relaxed and full of irony and busy harmonic changes. On "Few's Blues," a straight-ahead, swinging blues, Murray goes to the gut bucket for his inspiration as Few decorates the entire middle of the tune with chromatic arpeggios and elastic intervallic maneuvers. There's a lovely Don Byas feel here, punched up with a sense of Illinois Jacquet's R&B posturing that makes for a delightful jam among friends. Other notable tracks include the furiously deep "Sorrow Song" and the romp-and-stomp New Orleans strut of "When Satchel Paige Comes to Town." The set ends with a glorious and moving tribute to Charles Tyler in the title track, where Few goes modal in cascading chords and glissandos and Murray blows deep and warped, turning the angles of the harmonics on end, searching at the top of the tenor's register to get to the depth of emotion. Avenel opens it up with a brief scale and a humorous nod to Ellington, and from here Few creates a new progression of elevation atmospherics. Murray takes the interval, sharpens it up, and the band moves in ostinato unity across one of Tyler's favorite blues progressions and solos off of them. It's a fitting tribute and a heck of a way to end an album. This is one of Murray's records to seek out.

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