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Saxophonist David Murray's latest record, Octet Plays Trane, returns to the heart of the African-American jazz canon with joy and sophistication. Unlike many works with this large an ensemble, Octet Plays Trane steers clear of the rigidity of arranged large-group playing as well as the potential chaos coming from mass improvisation. Murray's orchestration of "Giant Steps," for example, builds off of an arrangement of Coltrane's original solostill leaving space for individual improvisations within this structure.
What's most remarkable about the record is how clearly the original vision of Coltrane shines through while receiving the signature treatment from some of today's most articulate modern jazz players. Murray's solos are, as always, a dominant driving force, but the other members of his octet are given the freedom to make their own individual statements as well. For Coltrane fans as well as Murray fans, this record is absolutely essential. It's dumbfounding how well David Murray can pull off ambitious projects like thisseemingly effortless, with grace and depth.
Track Listing: Giant Steps, Naima, The Crossing, India, Lazy Bird, A Love Supreme: Part I -- Acknowledgment.
Personnel: David Murray, tenor sax & bass clarinet; Craig Harris, trombone; D.D. Jackson, piano; Ravi Best, trumpet; Rasul Siddik, trumpet; James Spaulding, alto saxophone & flute; Mark Johnson, drums; Jaribu Shahid, bass.