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David Murray Quartet at The Village Vanguard

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David Murray Quartet
Village Vanguard
New York, NY
May 14, 2024

David Murray's feisty sax sound—sharp, honest, torrential—kicked off this particularly West Side spring evening whirling through "Ninno" one of the seven highlight jams on the richly rewarding Francesca (Intakt Records, 2024).

The new quartet—Murray, wizened pianist Marta Sanchez, old soul bassist Luke Stewart, and beat-wise drummer Russell Carter—had its bold premiere at the Village Vanguard in January 2023. In the subsequent year and almost half, the four have sealed an immediate bond of attentiveness to the individual dance of things. Let the phrases be informed with that noble cause. Let the empathy and excitement of the tune, the locals, the tourists, the notes, and the players for each other, create a musical, perhaps spiritual, whole.

Sanchez's solo alone during the spry and luxurious "Francesca" was worth the price of admission. Add Murray, Stewart, and Carter into the flux of improvisation and structure and the first set was all bonus. Murray was plenty eager to show he hasn't lost a step in his dynamics nor his demeanor and displayed a genuine joy in playing alongside his (much) younger cohorts: blowing full bore '50s rock 'n' roll style throughout the closing third of "Francesca." Contradicting said forms; holding blue and smokey, lush and hypnotic, trad and inventive as the set rolled on.

And roll on was key to the rhythm section's cooly excitable mindset. Stewart, who seems keen on demolishing any lingering assumptions about the bass by bopping from swing to avant coercion, faced no riff he couldn't hurdle. Carter played with an advanced degree of street smarts, thus turning "Come and Go" (another of the new album's watermarks) into a frothy mix of Murray's brassy mission with the World Saxophone Quartet and his own contemporary muscle. Sanchez, her playing languid and shaded by the many giants who have occupied the Vanguard's piano bench, leaned into her performances with a graceful, potent energy.

* Special thanks to Ken Holland for remembering the song titles

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