David Murray has recorded more albums in a greater variety of settings than any musician of his generation, and he has done so with consistently astounding success. On this ambitious date the outstanding saxophonist displays his remarkable range in the company of Gwo-Ka master drummer/vocalists Francois Ladrezau and Klod Kiavue, guitarists Herve Sambe and Christian Laviso, bassist Jaribu Shahid, drummer Hamid Drake, and a six-piece horn section drawn primarily from his Cuban big band. And, as if all that wasn't enough already, he invites fellow tenor titan Pharoah Sanders to join the festivities for half of the date. The resulting music is one of the most exciting fusions of jazz and Afro-Carribean rhythms ever recorded.
Gwo-ka, the traditional drum and voice based Carnival music from Guadeloupe, provides a powerful springboard for Murray's swinging funky horn charts and intrepid improvisations on the opening "Gwotet," an exhilarating collaboration by the leader with Kiavue and Laviso. Murray's sound is at its octave-leaping pinnacle, while the interaction of the dual guitarists generates additional excitement that is likely to appeal to devotees of the saxophonist's work with the Grateful Dead. Sanders' patented growling, squealing effects further intensifies the proceedings.
The traditional "O'teonso" features an introspective solo guitar interlude (vaguely reminiscent of "Nature Boy") following a short unison horn overture that is later reprised at length in a call and response pattern with the percussionist/singers, whose hand-and-stick drum solos ignite an explosive saxophone solo by the leader. Murray's pretty "Ouagaadougou" showcases the composer's bass clarinet on a relaxed airy melody that swings into an up-tempo percussion driven section featuring intertwining guitars and a fiery saxophone duel between the leader and Sanders in which each pours his respective brand of high octane fuel on to an inferno that dissolves in a fade.
Pharoah opens up Murray's instrumental "La Jwa" with some tenor/guitar/percussion interplay that revisits the spirit of his Tauhid album with Sonny Sharrock and Roger Blank. The horn section introduces a soulful guitar solo by Laviso before Murray takes his turn with a well-constructed solo that builds to a gut-wrenching climax. Sembe's "Djolla Feeling" is a tour de force that mixes a conventional African horn chart with modern angular guitar lines that open up a typically bracing Murray solo on which his tenor soars over the grooving rhythms of Shahid, Drake and company.
The Murray-Kiavue composition "Go To Jazz" is an ominous sounding piece featuring a rhythmically rapped chant that contrasts sharply with jazzy trumpet and soprano sax solos. "Ovwa" is an ambient Kiavue composition developed from a traditional piece for mouth drum that features Murray again on bass clarinet. The date ends with an edited encore performance of "Gwotet." The joy and power of this music was clearly evident at Central Park's Summer Stage last month, when Murray brought a slightly different edition of the group with an abbreviated horn section of Craig Harris and trumpeter Omar Kabir for a Sunday afternoon concert that left the appreciative audience sated and elated.
Personnel: David Murray: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Pharoah Sanders: tenor saxophone; Angel Ballester Veliz: alto saxophone and flute; Moises Marquez Leyva: baritone saxophone; Alexander Brown: trumpet; Carlos Sonduy Dimet: trumpet; Elpidio Chappotin Delgado: trumpet; Leonardo Alarcon: trombone; Christian Laviso: guitar; Hervé Sambe: guitar; Jaribu Shahid: bass; Hamid Drake: drums.