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David Murray part three April 17, 2007

Posted by wallofsound in David Murray.

Justin Time, Paris and Ethnomusicology 1996 to 2006

By 1996, though quite major changes had taken place in Murray’s professional and personal life. He changed record labels, moved to Paris and started a substantial musical journey in musical forms outside the jazz tradition.

His new label was the French Canadian Jazz independent Justin Time. His first contact here seems to have come through his work with Canadian pianist DD Jackson who joined his Big Band in the mid-1990s, and with whom Murray recorded a Justin Time CD in 1995. Both the WSQ and Murray as a leader signed with the label in 1996. The initial releases show Murray’s increasing interest in other musics of the African diaspora.

This interest is apparent much earlier in Murray’s career. Of course the Afro-centricism of the black arts movement had a profound influence, and long time collaborator, Kahil El’Zabar, used African percussion in many Murray records from the late 1980s. The influence of his African tours during the 1980s can be seen in the art work for his DIW CDs and some track names. He also seems to have been profoundly influenced by South African native and erstwhile Blue Note, Johnny Dyani, with whom he recorded many times.

However, the first major evidence for this interest is to be found in the WSQ 1990 recording with African drums played by American Chief Bey, who had first worked with Bluiett nine years earlier. In a 1995 release the WSQ played with three drummers, and recorded Murray’s Dakar Darkness reflecting on his trip to the slave coast of Senegal.

He had by now remarried for a third time, to Valerie Malot, French ethnomusicologists and concert promoter. They jointly formed 3D family which looks after all Murray’s tours and recording activities, as well as those of a range of Paris-based African and Caribbean musicians. Through a long series of CDs Murray has pursued his interests in different aspects of Afro-diasporic music. In interviews he seems to have never been happier. Extending his approach to collaborative work with a wider range of musicians, supported by a management company which places his work at the heart of a world music.

As earlier in his career, though, his Justin time contract isn’t exclusive. In the last ten years he has recorded over 15 CDs with other labels, covering a wide range of ensemble configurations and musical styles. His Justin Time records also cover an eclectic range. And in 2007 and he is revisiting his Black Saint recordings with a revitalised quartet.


Reading through interviews with Murray one is always struck by how interested he is to talk about the business of Jazz. Often more so than the music of Jazz.

He seems as acutely aware of the economics of the Jazz tradition as he is the music.

Re-reading the history of Coleman Hawkins, he always seemed somewhat at the mercy of recording companies and promoters, and seemed happier in the Jam sessions that professional musicians created as a creative space than in the commercial context that produced his living.

By contrast Murray seems determined to try and create a commercial context in which he can explore his musical muse.

His work seems to move in and out of a set of musical practices that we broadly call Jazz. Interestingly, though, he seems to have mainly by-passed the mainstream of major record labels, showing strong attachments to independent labels who offer his a high degree of musical freedom. At the same time he works with professional promoters and with public arts agencies, offering different personal interests up to different audiences.

The values he works with, though, seem to remain deeply rooted in the values of the black arts movement where he first established himself.



1. D.D. Jackson - July 17, 2007

Nice. David is, indeed always, interested in the business side, though obviously in music also – he is, in fact, a consummate business man in the best sense of the word (as his busy schedule will attest!) Some of my fondest memories are of performing as his pianist, including my debut at the Montreal Jazz Fest (subbing for John Hicks) in 1994, where my current record label, Justin Time Records, first “discovered” me (“discovered” thanks to David’s generous exposure). I tip my hat to David and hope to play with him again soon (we recently completed the soundtrack for an upcoming PBS documentary entitled “Banished”…

2. Paul Elsen - October 25, 2007

Greetings…Thanks for these essays on David Murray. One interesting aspect about Mr. Murray and the business side of the jazz world, is that if he is so concerned, he certainly picks labels that have a hard time distributing the cds anywhere (I’m writing from New York City). Granted, with the demise of the Tower Records chain, it’s impossible to find any kind of non top-selling music except on Amazon.com, but even here, many albums are out-of-print, and an awful lot of his output goes for high prices from used dealers (OK, because they didn’t sell so well in the first place). Even his material available for downloading is sketchy…eMusic has a fair amount, including some major items; iTunes even has a bit more; Yahoo & WalMart hardly have anything…but even iTunes could carry more if Mr. Murray, or his managment, or prior labels would negotiate to upload more.


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