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Collecting David Murray records: 150 down; two to go! January 2, 2008

Posted by wallofsound in David Murray, Jazz.

Record collectors can become quite completist. I know that’s not really a word, but the obsession to complete one part of a collection is strong when you’ve made so much of an effort to get the rest. I started the Christmas holiday three records short of a complete set of David Murray’s recordings as leader or joint leader, and a few days ago I managed to add another of the missing records to my collection thanks to a friendly ebay seller in Italy. (I’m still missing Live at Peace Church and Sur-Real Saxophone, if anyone has copies they want to sell at a reasonable price).

Just for the hell of it (and it’ll make Andrew happy that I’m doing a ‘proper’ blog post) I thought I’d document the final three recordings as I get them. To start us off here’s:

James Newton and David Murray Solomon’s Sons,

Solomon’s Sons

Circle Records RK 16177/5
Circle Records, Aachener Str 60/62, 5000 Koln, Germany

Dedicated to Martin Luther King

James Newton Flute
David Murray Alto and Tenor Saxophone

Monk’s Notice (James Newton) duo 13:29
The Dean (James Newton) flute solo 6:47
Theme For The Kidd (David Murray) duo 9:05
3D Family (David Murray) sax solo 7:09
Solomon’s Sons (James Newton) duo 9:05

Recorded in live at the Smudge Pot, Claremont, California on January 16th 1977

Recorded by Bruce Bidlack
Produced by Rudolf Kreis

The album presents recordings of three duo performances and a solo each for two reunited musicians back where they started playing: Claremont, California. By this point Murray had become the darling of the loft jazz scene in New York, as well as a regular feature on the European festival circuit. Murray tended to work in a quartet setting in the late 1970s, and so along with a couple of solo recordings, it’s interesting to hear Murray work in such a challenging context.

The album is credited to Newton and Murray, and the inverse alphabetical order suggests Newton had the key role here. Nevertheless Murray plays an equal role in the playing and composition stakes. Murray worked with Newton on three further recordings that I am aware of: a 1995 release of recordings made under Jon Jang’s leadership (Two Flowers on Stem); a jointly led quintet CD released in 1996; and a1998 work with Guadeloupian musicians (Creole)

Two note-worthy asides of interest to Murray fans. First, the album credits suggest he plays both alto and tenor on this recording. I haven’t found another example of the alto on any recording. Although I think I’ll need a couple more listens to spot where he uses the smaller horn, it’s most likely his solo track, 3D Family. I still can’t decide for sure because he plays in the same ‘beyond the instrument’ style he uses on tenor. The the back cover photo shows both horns in evidence, though. I should note that he was experimenting with different horns at this time. He plays soprano on ‘Bechet’s Bounce’ on Live at the Lower Manhattan Ocean Club Vol 1, and introduced bass clarinet into his performances on Jack DeJohnette’s 1979 recording of Special Edition. He carried on with the bass clarinet at regular intervals but the other saxes seemed to be one-offs. None of the press coverage I’ve tracked down from this time talks about his use of alto or soprano, so I don’t know if they got used in unrecorded live performances. Was anyone reading this at any of his gigs during these years?

Second, although not noted on the cover, Newton’s ‘The Dean’ is dedicated in the live announcement to Stanley Crouch. It’s certainly possible to draw the conclusion that ‘The Dean’ was a the affectionate name for Crouch who, as a staff member at Pomona College (where Murray studied), became a mentor for many black musicians involved in the local black arts movement.

The associations of this recording with Murray’s past and future resonate particularly strongly in one track. This was also the first time ‘3D Family’ was recorded; although he returned to the theme on three further occasions in 1978, ‘81 and ‘90. The importance of the composition to Murray is apparent in the 1978 release where he makes it the title track and dedicates it to (I think) his father Walter P Murray. When Murray Jnr moved to Paris he took the title as the name for his production company. Murray also recorded Newton’s ‘Monk’s Notice’ almost exactly a year later on Last of the Hipman.



1. Calvin - November 17, 2008

What a find. I must confess I’m only at about 110 David Murray titles and about to add 10 more. It is hard to make a full count. Not sure where to put World Sax Quartet.

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