David Murray Conceptual Saxophone track by track: Flowers for Albert (reprise) May 23, 2007Posted by wallofsound in David Murray, Jazz.
Here’s what Murray had to say on BBC Radio’s Jazz on 3 on Friday 1 April 2005 about how he came to write ‘Flowers for Albert’ and the meaning that can be drawn from it.
“To tell you the truth it wasn’t really a big deal. I think they made more of a big deal about it than it really was. (er..) Basically I visited Sunny Murray’s house and he was telling me about how Albert had gotten killed and why he was dead, and all the ramifications of that. (er..) I just thought it was sad and I was walking home from his house and I started whistling this song and I went home and wrote it down; and that was pretty much it. And then after that everybody was telling me that I was an Albert Ayler clone and I worshipped Albert Ayler and Ayler this and that. I’d never even met Albert Ayler. I didn’t really know anything about him until Sunny Murray told me something about his life.”
Now, Murray doesn’t say ‘I never listened to an Ayler record’, and he may just want to say ‘commentators have over stated the influence’, but he clearly doesn’t want to be seen as influenced strongly by Ayler. We should also note that in interviews he consistently celebrates his debt to Hawkins, Coleman, Rollins and Gonsalves.
It’s also instructive to listen to Murray’s first recorded performances made with a Ted Daniel experimental big band within a few months of arriving in New York in on April 12, 1975 at Studio We, NYC. The two tracks ‘Illusions’ and ‘Hassan’ are available on In The Beginning (Altura Music ALT1-4 12755 21752 5). The Big Band was made up of: Ted Daniel (tp), Oliver Lake (as), Arthur Blythe (as), David Murray (ts), Charles Tyler (bs), Hassan Dawkins (ss), Kappo Umezu (as, bcl), Richard Dunbar (french hn), Melvin Smith (g), Tatsuya Nakamura (perc, tubular d). Murray’s takes the first solo on Illusions and his distinctive style is clearly fully formed at this point, and although he is fighting to be heard in this mix, he does not sound out of his depth in the company of player a generation older like Oliver Lake and Arthur Blythe.
He does note in the BBC radio interview that when he returned to California after about six months in New York that people noted that he played with more energy and power because “in New York you have to play loud enough to be heard over the others”. I’d deduce that Murray came to many of the same mechanical and musical techniques independently because both players developed an approach to free improvisation which takes off from Coltrane, but is not in debt to Coltrane’s sound or approach to improvisation. To achieve this they both explore the spiritual as a black musical form and the possibilities of the tenor saxophone as a machine that makes sound.