Irish twins Connor Murray (bass) and Micheal Murray (alto saxophone) live by their own law. Murrays Law. It dictates that what can happen at the last minute will happen at the last minute. Yet their trajectory, since transitioning from Irish traditional music to jazz in their early teens, seems not so much cobbled together as carefully plotted, with little left to chance. Regular students at the annual Sligo Jazz Project
and graduates of the jazz program at the Glasgow Royal Conservatoire, the Murrays are also co-founders and Artistic Directors of the Falcarragh Winter Jazz Festival
, held in their Donegal hometown. Murrays Law,
their debut recording, featuring drummer David Lyttle
, feels like the logical next stepan affirmation of their respective musical talents.
It is a confident affirmation at that. Raised on jazz standards, the Murrays instead showcase their compositional skills as much as their virtuoso playing with a set comprised entirely of original tunes. Certainly, the language draws from old-school traditions ranging from bebop to hard-bop, particularly in the driving opener "On the Cusp," with its fast-walking bass, insistent cymbal pulse and a sinewy improvisation from Micheal Murray, but there is a freshness and originality to these tunes that distinguishes them from mere contrafacts.
On slower tunes like the mid-tempo trot "Moscow" and the dreamy, brushes-steered ballad "I Want to Believe," Micheal Murray conveys a greater affinity with Lee Konitz
than with Charlie Parker
. His pronounced lyricism shares something of the relaxed delivery-cum-emotional intensity that was a Konitz hallmark, while his melodic improvisations flow effortlessly and quite beguilingly. Conor Murray, who owns a big, earthy sound, is a probing presence throughout. As steady as a rock when just a pulse is required, or swinging hard when the music opens up, his rhythmic elasticity colors the music more subtly but no less significantly than his sibling.
Lyttlean important mentor to the Murrayshas been a fixture in their trio since 2018, forging a deep sense of musical union with the brothers along the way. The MOBO Award-nominated drummer is a galvanizing force here, his deceptively complex yet ever-swinging, post-Art Blakey
polyrhythms imbuing the music with energy and pizzazz. Yet the trio is greater than the sum of its parts, combining gracefully yet powerfully to shape fundamentally simple melodic frames into something grander.
The trio symmetry is keenly felt on the John Coltrane
-esque "Solitude"built around a hypnotic bass ostinato and featuring classy solos from all three musiciansand on the blues-tinged "Right Side of Up," which is fueled by walking bass and Lyttle's lithe brushes groove. Likewise, on "Clarity" and "Little Steps," which on the surface are strong vehicles for the impressive Micheal Murray, there is plenty stirringrhythmically speakingbeneath the expansive alto canopy. At the slowest tempi, too, the trio exerts its seductive charm, nowhere more so than on "I Want to Believe," a lyrical mediation of deep-breathing tranquillity.
An auspicious debut that merits repeated listening, Murrays Law
confirms what they've known in Donegal, Sligo and Glasgow for some time nowthat the Murrays are rising stars in the jazz firmament. Next stop for the Falcarragh law makers, the world at large.
On The Cusp; Moscow; Solitude; I Want To Believe; Little Steps; Right Side Of Up; Clarity.