David Murray Conceptual Saxophone track by track: Come Sunday. May 27, 2007Posted by wallofsound in David Murray, Jazz.
Come Sunday is a Duke Ellington composition strongly rooted in African American spirituals. It was originally featured by Ellington as part of his 1943 extended concert performance Black, Brown and Beige at Carnegie Hall, and was later used as a major theme in Ellington’s first Sacred Concert premiered in San Francisco Cathedral in 1965. The piece, therefore, resonates in jazz history on many levels. Its connotations carry the ambitions of artists like Ellington to have their work treated seriously on equal terms with European art music, while still being rooted in African American culture. The development of Jazz forms into longer compositional structures to be played in concert halls was an important part of the shift in the music’s social role from dancing to listening. However, Ellington’s use of musical forms from the black church was equally important in asserting a progressive agenda within American race politics.
This is the first time Murray had recorded a piece that wasn’t by him or a member of the performing band. In fact while the Theatre Mouffetard concert from which this LP and two others was drawn featured two Stanley Crouch originals and a version of the Jerome Kern standard ‘All The Things You Are’ Murray didn’t record another track composed from outside his performing retinue until 1983’s Morning Song. There he featured ‘Body And Soul’ and Fats Waller’s ‘Jitterbug Waltz’. The practice of recording originals from band members – when the majority of small Jazz playing up to 1959 had been about improvising on melodies chosen from a wide shared repertoire of standards – wasn’t just a personal aberration, but at the heart of the new Jazz movement which Murray joined. The first wave of free players, following Coltrane and Coleman, tended to play originals. By the mid-1960s the practice had become the central theme of the new music and its musicians. George E Lewis’ account of the discussions of the early members of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in 1965 quotes Richard Abrams: “first of all, number one, there’s original music, only” (quoted in Lewis 2001, 3). The AACM members, along with players from St Louis’ Black Artists Group (BAG), formed the core of New York’s new music scene in the 1970s and so their ideas and values determined the ‘disciplinary matrix’ of the new playing.
I think we can conclude, therefore, that Come Sunday has an importance for Murray way beyond the usual jazz practice of playing standards.
The track opens with Murray’s spoken introduction: “The next piece I’m gonna play (.) I’m going to dedicate to my farther (..) ’cause he likes to go to church on Sunday.” Brian Case’s sleeve notes deal with Murray’s musical origins in the Missionary Church of God in Christ, and quotes Murray’s intention to move away from intellectualisation of music towards a transcendental one: “that same kinda feeling coming out of the churches, I try to get that in my music. …I like it to flow with a spiritual kinda meaning to it.” Murray used the ecstatic performance style of black church singers prominently in his playing, and he was to later investigate the spirituals themselves as the basis for improvisations in several albums from the late 1980s.
Ellington’s approach to composition and arrangement was also a major factor in Murray’s later work. Case’s sleeve notes for Conceptual Saxophone cite Murray’s interest in Paul Gonsalves – Ellington’s long time tenor player – as an influence, and he went on to record 13 Ellington and 7 Billy Strayhorn compositions with his own bands or the WSQ.