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David Murray Conceptual Saxophone track by track: ‘Home’ May 29, 2007

Posted by wallofsound in David Murray, Jazz.
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David Murray recorded ‘Home’ five times; this was most likely the first time. I say most likely because while the Conceptual Saxophone tracks were recorded live in Paris on the 6th and 7th February, ‘Home’ was also one of the tracks Murray recorded for a studio album in the same month and year at Ricordi Studios in Milano. The studio version, released as part of Interboogiology, is a duo with South Arican bassist Johnny Dyani, while the Conceptual Saxophone track is solo. Both versions are just over 11 minutes,

‘Home’ is another plaintive song, the title seems to suggest the longing for a place distance in space and time. By this point in his career Murray had been away from California for three years, had set up base in New York, but spent a substantial time in Europe. If the song’s about Murray’s home it is one that he yearns for.

The key melody is strong throughout, as Murray explores the statement through a series of possible intonations. His comments to Brian Case about his approach to playing seem to be particularly pertinent to his performances of ‘Home’: “Once I’m really into a composition, it’s not about the techniques of the saxophone – don’t hafta think about the notes I’m putting down. Physically, I almost go to sleep, but I’m dreaming. I trust my intellectual subsconsious to play this music, and that’s one of the hardest things to do.”

The rendition on Interboogiology still contains the plaintive feel, but by one third in Murray’s playing becomes more abstracted from the melody, and less constrained by the yearning qualities of the way he usually enunciates the phrase. As a duo performance he works in quite complex ways with Dyani. Murray taking the lead, but Dyani is far more than a rhythmic accompanist. The two players seemed to develop a particularly strong relationship, and in interviews Murray has several times indicated Dyani’s personal and musical influence. Dyani – formerly a member of the South African expatriate Blue Notes in London, and at that time a resident of Denmark then Sweden since the early 1970s – played with Murray throughout continental Europe during 1978, although curiously not during the London date for the London Concert during August.

After Dyani’s death in 1986 Murray wrote two pieces dedicated to his memory. One, using Dyani’s ‘African’ name Mbizo as the title, was recorded three times in 1987 and 1988, and again in 1997/8. The first late 80s recording is with the Clarinet Summit, then in duo with pianist Randy Western, and finally with his quartet as part of Deep River. The late 1990s version on M’Bizo is with WSQ and a large group of African Musicians. Murray also recorded ‘Capetown Strut / Kwelli: Dyani’ for less well know The People’s Choice album in 1987.

One could speculate that given Dyani’s political and musical influence on Murray, that the roots of the latter’s interest in African music comes from this time. And perhaps that ‘Home’ was written for Dyani. Certainly when ‘Home’ is reprised in 1998 it shared the album with Mbizo. This lament for home seems far more powerfully evocative of an exiles’ sadness, than that of the roaming African American. Certainly something of the same quality can be found on the second part of ‘Capetown Strut / Kwelli: Dyani’ where the optimism of the strut contrasts with the sadness of the Dyani-dedicated Kwelli.

The quintet that played ‘Home’ on the London stage of the Collegiate Theatre in August of 1978, explored the abstraction of the Murray-Dyani studio version, with a stronger more forcefull (and less meditative Murray leading for most of the 16 minutes of its cycle). By the time Home was recorded by a full octet in 1981, it has become a full Ellington-style arrangement including Ellington-esque piano from Anthony Davis, and has blossomed into a full colour pallet tone poem to a lost past.

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