Number twenty-one of Jon Turney’s weekly selections (introduced HERE), is the first treatment of a theme that David Murray loves to revisit.
The title track from David Murray’s first album as a leader, from a New York loft session, had enormous presence and power for a player who was then just 21. It’s a dedication to Albert Ayler, whose sound seems to come through too, though Murray has stressed he was influenced more by other great players.
The band, like the leader, play freer than Murray usually did later on. Fred Hopkins on bass and Philip Wilson on drums make the tenor player sound like a West Coast member of the AACM, while Olu Dara on trumpet completes a piano-less quartet. Murray works his way into the theme unaccompanied, then the others join for an impassioned statement of the tune. The tenor player’s gnarly solo follows, Murray very interested in ugly beauty. Dara contributes, more melodically but still mournfully, then the grand theme reappears.
It’s a fine threnody – and probably the tune Murray has recorded most often since. Later versions often take it into quite different moods. I like them all, and the way they thread through the composer’s career, but this one captures a particular way of playing best. And that sound, and the theme, surfaced again in this fine solo livestream from lockdown last year (beginning at around 1hr.08mins) – there’s life in this tune yet!
OTHER LINKS: first track on the full album, posted here.
Alternative, rather jaunty, octet version on Spotify
More on this recording on Jon’s Bristol Jazz Log
Read Jon’s introduction to the ’52 tracks’ series
Spotify playlist for the series.