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Murley / Braid Quartet: Mnemosyne's March

Budd Kopman By

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The Canadian scene is like any other in that players find each other—and when things click, they end up in each other's bands. This terrific quartet is led by veteran saxophonist Mike Murley and pianist David Braid, a brash youngster who is making a big and deserved splash. Jim Vivian, another veteran (whose playing was notable on Steve Amirault's Breath on Effendi), plays bass, and Ian Froman, who is very active in New York City, plays drums.

This set, documenting a live Murley/Braid Quartet performance in Toronto in January, 2005, is made up of three compositions each by Braid and Murley, plus a closing standard, "I Wish I Knew," by Harry Warren. The recording quality is high, the audience is attentive and receptive, the band's communication is superb, and the stars aligned to make for some very exciting and rewarding listening.

Not to knock the other band members, but Braid manages to steal, in the nicest way possible, every record he where he appears as a sideman. How this happens is a bit of a mystery, because he's not bombastic or longwinded, nor does he play particularly fast or tricky lines. His classical training is very easy to hear, since his touch is quite deft. His lines can be short or long, and they thread many different kinds of ideas together in such a way as to make the connections seem inevitable. When he accompanies other players, his musical choices support the soloists while also saying something pertinent; he swings like crazy, with intelligence in every note.

That said, this quartet's distinctive sound is the sum of each member's input. The Braid tunes that start the set naturally sound different from those by Murley toward the end. "Say A Silent Prayer" has a pleasant lilt, with a touch of gospel or blues, while a soft drive propels "Dream Recording" through its meter changes and chromatic line. The title tune, despite Vivian's insecure pitch on his arco solo, is stately and graceful as the melody line unfolds and keeps turning back on itself.

Murley's tunes are closer to a "traditional" sound, with enough personal idiosyncracies to keep things interesting. "Cascade," a suite inspired by Banff, Alberta, has an ECM-ish feel of the north that includes some bass playing that's reminiscent of Gary Peacock, running right into "Rundle," which burns intensely and feels like a mix of Coltrane and Shorter.

In Greek mythology, Mnemosyne (nee-MAH-si-nee) was the personification of memory. She was a Titan, daughter of Uranus and Gaea, and the Muses were her daughters by Zeus. Perhaps the titular allusion refers to the band's way of remembering tradition while allowing their "muse" to run free. Then again, maybe Braid and Murley just liked the sound of her name.

Visit Mike Murley and David Braid on the web.

Track Listing: Say a Silent Prayer; Dream Recording; Mnemosyne's March; Sheep Walking; Cascade; Rundle; I Wish I Knew.

Personnel: Mike Murley: tenor and soprano saxophones; David Braid: piano; Jim Vivian: bass; Ian Froman: drums.

Title: Mnemosyne's March | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Cornerstone Records Inc.

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