David Murray Trio: 3D Family (1978)
Another problem with the usefulness of that timeline is that post-Ming Murray encompasses most of the multi-reedist's career. It is nevertheless remarkable to go back to that especially fruitful pre-Ming period, and this reissue of 3D Family provides a recording from those heady days, captured live at Willisau in September 1978. The album has been more or less widely available for many years, but it is good to have it back in the catalogue (even if "P.O. in Cairo" has been cut from the original LP release), not least because of the extraordinarily sympathetic playing of the trio's other members.
The first half of the set is slightly easier going than the second: the title track is suitably enough in a loose 3/4 time with a memorable melody. Bassist Johnny Mbizo Dyani is the rhythmic anchor, Andrew Cyrille providing ornamentation around the timekeeping. "Patricia" is a lovely ballad based on a simple melody that could have come from Ornette Coleman. The drum and bass breaks, here as on "Shout Song," are solos in the strict sense, the other trio members laying out entirely.
"In Memory of Jomo Kenyatta," untethered from any of the musical reference points that hold together the other performancesa melodic fragment, a bass ostinato, a rhythmic pulsemay be the shortest track in the set (at nine-plus minutes) but it is nonetheless the most wearing. Formally the wildest number here, it is also the most static, like the chaos of a Jackson Pollock painting flattened onto a canvas: it comes off as a long, unmodulated wail. The song's relationship to its dedicatee is interesting to ponder but ultimately as impenetrable as the piece itself.
"Shout Song" is a bit more conventional, but still fairly free in its execution. It has a simple two-step theme that sounds a little like the ingenious figure Charlie Parker used to open "All The Things You Are" (aka "Lullaby of Birdland"). The ensemble portion is affecting, Murray's overblowing echoed by Dyani's ghostly, Roma-like harmonics. The bassist's solo is long and slightly discursive, but Cyrille's is more tightly focused; both appear to be trying to echo the song's simple theme.
The relative importance of 3D Family in the Murray canon is subject to debate; so strong is the overall quality of his work, however, that this record should surely rank among the year's best reissues.
Track Listing: 3D Family; Patricia; In Memory of Yomo Kenyatta; Shout Song.
Personnel: David Murray: tenor saxophone; Johnny Mbizo Dyani: double bass; Andrew Cyrille: percussion.
Record Label: Hatology
Style: Modern Jazz