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David Murray and the Gwo ka Masters: The Devil Tried To Kill Me

Mark F. Turner By

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This global block party, by saxophonist David Murray, blends ebullient African- rhythms with funk and jazz, brought by a fiery band that integrates two Gwo ka masters (Guadalupean drummers/vocalists), some sassy urban soul from pianist/vocalist Sista Kee, and the world renowned blues voice of Taj Mahal. The Devil Tried To Kill Me is Murray's third release with the Gwo ka Masters, following 2004's well received Gwotet (Justin Time), a recording that also featured avant-garde icon, saxophonist Pharoah Sanders.

Recorded in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadalupe's largest city, the recording is an emphatic celebration of the island's proud past and compelling present—reminding of its history of slavery, struggle, and independence before integration into France (circa 1794). The music is fueled by the indigenous beats of Gwo ka drums, stirring vocals and lyrics that speak life—as Murray states in the CD's liner notes, ..."music that is aimed towards the future."

The heartbeat of the Gwo ka is undeniable, starting with "Kiama For Obama," its pulse growing feverishly by the drumming and voices of Klod Kiavue and Francois Ladrezeau as the other band members improvise over the contagious theme. The cadence slows on "Africa" as Taj Mahal sings poignant lyrics of love and healing to the beautiful continent and its people, with Murray echoing the sentiment via a warm baritone solo.

The funk comes hard in the super-bad "Southern Skies," treated with a double-dose of bluesy lyrics by Taj Mahal and sassy spoken word from the multi-talented San Franciscan, Sista Kee. The band burns white hot; Murray's tenor flying free, followed by Christian Laviso and Herve Samb's super-heated guitars. The title track is another free funk jazz killer, with Sista Kee spinning a humorous tale (lyrics by Ishmael Reed) of an escape from American cyberspace.

"Congo" and "Canto Oneguine" are Afropop-influenced tracks that continue the recording's upbeat spirit, as the Gwo ka masters provide fervent call and response verses to the band's incessant playing. Radio-edits of "Southern Skies" and "Africa" are thrown in for those who want shortened versions but are otherwise redundant. It would have been better to have more tunes, especially with Sista Kee and Taj Mahal. Regardless, David Murray and the Gwo ka masters have created another stupendous release that makes the trip to Guadalupe an extraordinary journey.

Track Listing: Kiama For Obama; Africa; Southern Skies; The Devil Tried To Kill Me; Congo List Canto Oneguine; Southern Skies (Radio Edit); Africa (Radio Edit).

Personnel: David Murray: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Taj Mahal: vocals (2, 3); Sista Kee: vocals (3, 4); Jaribu Shahid: electric bass; Renzel Merrit: drums; Klod Kiavue: ka drums, vocals; Francois Ladrezeau: ka drums, vocals; Rasul Siddik: trumpet; Christian Laviso: guitar; Herve Samb: guitar.

Title: The Devil Tried To Kill Me | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Justin Time Records


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