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Mike Murley: Taking Flight

Don Phipps By

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Mike Murley's Taking Flight is a candlelight romance of well-chosen covers and two original compositions. At times, Murley's sax sound is slightly reminiscent of Ben Webster while, when he plays ballads, one can hear echoes of John Coltrane. In short, his sound is sweet and warm. Combining this sound with the elegant contributions of his bandmates gives the album a sophisticated appeal, like sipping a cosmopolitan in black tie at a glass bar.

Eschewing a drummer, Murley's ensemble consists of Renee Rosnes on piano, Reg Schwager on guitar, with Steve Wallace and Jim Vivian splitting the bass duties. The set begins with a couple of Kenny Wheeler numbers, "Winter Suite" and "Phrase 3." The former gives Murley a chance to show off his soft and glossy tenor sax side while, on the latter, he uses the soprano sax to create a sexy, saucy atmosphere. Rosnes provides a delicate accompaniment on these and other numbers, and when she solos, she only hints at the contour of the melody.

On his original "Taking Flight," Murley crafts a lively dance—like watching tap dance trenches on the stage of the Cotton Club. Murley has a back and forth with Schwager, while Wallace's bass, although a bit muddy, keeps the pace moving. Schwager entertains with a bluesy and expressive solo on Michel Legrand's "You Must Believe in Spring." The album's sophistication reaches its apex on Wayne Shorter's lovely ballad "Penelope," where the music opens up like an al fresco rooftop on a clear Manhattan evening.

In his second original, "Love-Lee," Murley allows Schwager and Rosnes to play "alone together" and they take turns soloing and accompanying and sometimes playing in unison. Murley also covers Jobim's bossa nova tune "Zingaro" and Charlie Parker's be-bop number "Bird Feathers." The set winds down with Brodzsky's "I'll Never Stop Loving You," with Schwager and Murley's solos bringing the album to a silky landing.

While most certainly a throwback to an earlier period, Taking Flight is a graceful, amorous homage best experienced in an urbane and romantic mood. Murley and company sound best with the lights down low.

Track Listing: Winter Suite; Phrase 3; Taking Flight; You Must Believe in Spring; Penelope; Love-Lee; Zingaro; Bird Feathers; I’ll Never Stop Loving You.

Personnel: Mike Murley: tenor and soprano saxophone; Renee Rosnes: piano; Reg Schwager: guitar; Steve Wallace: bass; Jim Vivian: bass.

Title: Taking Flight | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Cornerstone Records Inc.

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