David Murray: Circles Live in Cracow & We Is

Kurt Gottschalk By

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In the years since his exile to Paris, David Murray has positioned himself as a champion of jazz history and music of the African diaspora, a sort of Wynton Marsalis of the avant-garde. His projects - from arranging John Coltrane and Duke Ellington to working with musicians from Cuba and Guadaloupe - have been professional and polished, to some perhaps too much so. Murray hasn't let go entirely of his days of revolving-door sidemen and two recent recordings return to his spirit of 15 years ago.

David Murray
Circles Live in Cracow
Not Two

Circles Live in Cracow is a classic, free improv trio (a line-up Murray has used surprisingly rarely) with a pair of Polish brothers for a rhythm section. Bassist Marcin and drummer Bartlomiej Brat Oles each contribute compositions to the set, recorded live in 2003 and tackle Murray's "Mbizo" and Ornette Coleman's "Law Years." It's more relaxed than such Murray trio dates as Sweet Lovely or The Hill, but no less adventurous.

David Murray/Kahil El'Zabar
We Is

Murray's duet with Chicago percussionist Kahil El'Zabar is one of his longest standing partnerships and We Is - recorded at the Bop Shop record store in Rochester, NY in 2000 - follows formula: hand drum ballad, kit drum barnstorm and a thumb piano meditation, with Murray switching between tenor sax and bass clarinet. The familiarity could be comforting if the recording quality was better. Unfortunately, the disc comes off as an unedited audience tape with superfluous noise between takes and El'Zabar's contributions drowned out and muddied. It's a double shame because those in attendance clearly got a great show and with Murray having expatriated himself the opportunities to hear him in such informal settings have grown scarce.

Circles Live in Cracow

Tracks: 1. Go Home, 2. Double Tone, 3. Mbizo, 4. Fair Play, 5. Circles, 6. Thunderbird, 7. Law Years
Personnel: David Murray - tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, Marcin Oles - double bass, Bartłomiej Brat Oles - drums

We Is

Tracks: 1. Groove Allure, 2. We Is, 3. Blues Affirmation, 4. One World Family, 5. Sweet Meat
Personnel: David Murray - tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, Kahil El'Zabar - percussion

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