Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Review: David Murray and Mal Waldron

David Murray and Mal Waldron, Silence (Justin Time, 2008)

David Murray, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone
Mal Waldron, piano

Recorded October 2001 in Brussels

Free For C.T. (Waldron–Max Roach) 10:44
Silence (Murray) 3:30
Hurray For Herbie (Waldron) 7:52
I Should Care (Sammy Cahn–Axel Stordahl–Paul Weston) 12:36
Jean-Pierre (Miles Davis) 10:03
All Too Soon (Duke Ellington–Carl Sigman) 7:08
Soul Eyes (Waldron–Kelly Beverly Wolfe) 14:17

This recording gives us two great and markedly different improvisers whose interplay bespeaks a deep musical and emotional connection. Had Murray and Waldron ever played together before making this recording? The one-page insert page accompanying the CD gives no information about the circumstances of this collaboration.

Every track here is a standout, but I'm especially drawn to the last four (which twenty-five years or so ago might have formed the two sides of a perfect LP). Waldron introduces an ascending half-step figure in the seventh bar of "I Should Care" that reshapes (or Waldronizes) the melody, and he and Murray recast the first four bars "All Too Soon" as a series of three-note phrases. "Jean-Pierre," one of the bright moments of Miles Davis' later years, is reharmonized into a gospel-funk extravaganza reminiscent of Murray's "Morning Song" (or Billy Preston's "Nothing from Nothing"). And finally, "Soul Eyes," whose lengthy coda suggests the joy these musicians found in playing together.

A bonus: sound quality is extraordinary. Three cheers for Michael W. Huon and Olivier Huillet, who did the recording, and Bill Szawlowski, who mixed and mastered.

I've gone as long as I can without saying it: what a record!

Samples of the first five tracks are available here.

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