If jazz is ever to escape from the "specialist" ghetto in which it finds itself in 2013 the simple truth is that we need more people with the vision of David Murray
and more records as good as this one.
Murray has a long and distinguished jazz career on tenor sax that began in the NYC Loft Scene of the 1970staking in my personal favourite octet recordings of the likes of Ming
on Black Saint in the 1980s, right up to this soulful home run of a collection. In a recent Jazzwise interview Murray spoke eloquently of his breadth of inspiration from the gospel of Mahalia Jackson, including his childhood church where he met Sly Stone, through Ellington and Coltrane to Curtis Mayfield and the Roots. It is this blend of influence that makes Be My Monster Love
such an attractive propositionthere literally is something here for anyone with an interest in the black music of the last 50 years or so.
Big ticket draw will be the three tracks that jazzman of the moment Gregory Porter
has cuttwo with lyrics by poet and novelist Ishmael Reed. One of these Reed tracks in particular 'Hope is a Thing with Feathers' is a moving ballad tale of the immigrant experience on 'festering slave ships' lifted into the stratosphere by the unrestrained soul of Porter's Donny Hathaway-esque vocal. That said all three of the Porter contributions would have been among the highlights of any of his three albums to date and have a stronger jazz feel than much of Liquid Spirit.
You can hear another of the Porter tracks "About the Children" below.
The title track also features lyrics by Reed, but in a much lighter vein (sic), drawing a great campy vampiric performance from Macy Gray
, who sounds like she rather enjoyed the obsessional lyrical turns of the like of
"Climb in my neck is yours, Suck me until I'm anaemic, Until I can't get out of bed, Until the doctors give me up for dead..."
Murray really brings out the best in his guest vocalists, primarily by staying out of their way, leaving the space to have a conversation between them and the crack band featuring the excellent Nasheet Waits
on drums, with Marc Cary
and Jaribu Shahid
making fine contributions on piano/organ and bass respectively. The instrumental tracks that punctuate the big name vocal contributions really add to the feel of the collectionbuilding an atmosphere of seeing a small group play in an intimate jazz club that is completely beguiling.
Jazz seems to struggle to crossover these days, but gems such as this are still there to be unearthedthey may not have the media profile of the past but the musical quality and innovation remains. Lets hope that someone out there in the mainstream is listening.
French Kiss For Valerie; Be My Monster Love; Stressology; Army of the Faithful; Sorrow Song; About The Children; The Graduate; Hope Is A Thing With Feathers.
David Murray: tenor saxophone; Marc Cary: piano,organ; Jaribu Shahid:
bass; Nasheet Waits: drums; Bobby Bradford: cornet (7); Macy Gray: vocals; Gregory Porter: vocals.