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Dave McMurray

Dave McMurray’s Blue Note Records debut, Music Is Life is a reunion of sorts, given the long history the saxophonist shares with the label’s president, and fellow Detroit native, Don Was. McMurray was a member of Was’ genre-defying unit Was (Not Was), first working together on the band’s self-titled 1981 debut. He’s played on all of the band’s albums and many other Was produced projects in the years since.

When Was signed McMurray to Blue Note, the saxophonist says that he gave him no imperatives as to which artistic paths to take. “It was one of those situations in which he just said, ‘Do it,’” McMurray explains.

“I know Dave’s playing really well. He doesn’t bullshit,” Was praises. “He’s never playing licks for the sake of playing licks. He’s not trying to impress people with what all he knows about music or about his dexterity over the instrument. It’s all about honest expressions.”

McMurray proceeded by gathering a batch of strong originals and well-chosen rock and R&B staples then recruited musicians – bassist Ibrahim Jones and drummers Ron Otis and Jeff Canady – with whom he’s forged longstanding rapports. With minimum keyboard and string accompaniments on a few tunes, the music boasts an open, rugged sensibility that optimizes the leader’s burly tone and swaggering lyricism.

McMurray has cemented his reputation for versatility by playing with a vast array of musicians that include B.B. King, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Hallyday, Gladys Knight, Albert King, Nancy Wilson, KEM, Bootsy Collins, Herbie Hancock, Geri Allen, and Bob James. McMurray sounds as assured and inspired in a rock, R&B, funk, pop or folk setting as he does playing hard bop.

McMurray consolidates all of those aforementioned idioms on Music Is Life, creating a cohesive program of groove-based modern jazz that bristles with unalloyed soul. “I wanted it to have the spirit of a funk record,” he says, before rejoicing in the freedom afforded by having minimum chordal support. “I can just hold the melody down or go anywhere else in these songs.”

McMurray attributes his saxophone sound and improvisational approach to growing up in Detroit. “Every time I hear an instrumentalist from Detroit play, it feels like they are singing. I don’t care if it’s Yusef Lateef, James Carter or Kenny Garrett. All of those saxophonists incorporated incredible technique too. But they had this singing quality in their playing. I think people hear that and connect with that aspect of it,” McMurray says.

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Album Review

Dave McMurray: Grateful Deadication 2

Read "Grateful Deadication 2" reviewed by Geno Thackara


Yet another Grateful Dead tribute will probably invite the same reactions from devotees and anyone else--either “oh, these songs again? “ or “Hmm, these songs again?" For anyone willing to take a look, it will (of course) come down to the way the material is presented and retooled, which in Dave McMurray's case means the sound of jny: Detroit. His saxophone reflects his roots in Motown and soul no matter what he does, and so Grateful Deadication 2 flavors these ...

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Radio & Podcasts

Dave McMurray

Read "Dave McMurray" reviewed by Lawrence Peryer


Saxophonist Dave McMurray stops by Spotlight On to talk about his career, the music scene in his native Detroit, his long history with musician, producer and executive Don Was, his work and relationship with Geri Allen and more. McMurray has performed with a stunning roster of legendary musicians, including B.B. King, Nancy Wilson]}, {{m: Herbie Hancock, and Bob James. ...

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Interview

Dave McMurray: Blowing on the Edge of Grate-ness

Read "Dave McMurray: Blowing on the Edge of Grate-ness" reviewed by Lawrence Peryer


Saxophonist Dave McMurray's discography is reflective of the musical melting pot of his hometown jny: Detroit. Dave came up playing with everyone from bluesman Albert King, pianist Geri Allen, even Kid Rock. He is most known for his decades-long association with eclectic producer, and Blue Note label President, Don Was. Through Was, who is a band mate of Grateful Dead co-founder Bob Weir in their group Wolf Bros, Dave became familiar with the music of the ...

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Live Review

Dave McMurray Trio at Dazzle

Read "Dave McMurray Trio at Dazzle" reviewed by Geoff Anderson


Dave McMurray Trio Dazzle Denver, CO March 26, 2019 Power trio. That's a term most often applied to really loud rock bands. Many such entities began roaming the earth in the 1960s and shortly thereafter. Bands like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, ZZ Top, the James Gang and the daddy of them all, Cream, defined the concept. They featured a guitarist backed by bass and drums and, of course, volume. Lots of volume. But anybody can ...

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Album Review

Dave McMurray: Soul Searching

Read "Soul Searching" reviewed by Jim Santella


His soulful saxophone melodies add a contemporary charm to age-old romance. Tap your hands lightly on the backbeat and relax, while Dave McMurray explores the smooth jazz arena with a little help from Bob James, Mark Isham, Chuck Loeb, the Ridgeway Sisters, and others.

“What cha gonna do with my lovin?" “Tell me now."

Complete with turntable scratches and tightly mixed overdubs, McMurray's session walks the walk and turns on the charm. On tenor, alto and soprano, he's ...

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Interview

Under Your Skin Interviews: Carla Bley, Jack DeJohnette, Dave McMurray, Mari Boine, Lydia Lunch and Baaba Maal

Under Your Skin Interviews: Carla Bley, Jack DeJohnette, Dave McMurray, Mari Boine, Lydia Lunch and Baaba Maal

Source: Michael Ricci

Under Your Skin is an exploration on the cultural diversity of music and artists from around the globe - from Popular Music to Jazz, Hip Hop, Reggae, Avantgarde, Experimental, Afrobeat, Drum & Bass, Metal, Electronic, DJ-ing/Turntablism, Folk, Classical and more. Carla Bley Jack DeJohnette Dave McMurray Mari Boine Lydia Lunch

McMurray consistently shows that he is a fine saxophonist particularly on tenor. His playing is a little reminiscent of Grover Washington, Jr. style-wise, although his has his own sound. Hopefully he will have future opportunities to stretch out and really show what he can do.

Scott Yanow,All Music Guide

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