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John Blum, David Murray and Chad Taylor: The Recursive Tree

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John Blum, David Murray and Chad Taylor: The Recursive Tree
After maintaining an almost impossibly prolific recorded output during the 1980s and 1990s (with over fifty releases in the 1990s alone), saxophonist David Murray eased up considerably in the 2000s, leaving his fans wondering if he might ever return to his earlier fecundity. Although it would be unrealistic to expect the veteran tenorist to approach the manic intensity of his first couple of decades, it does seem as though he is once again finding his stride, energized to some degree through his partnership with a younger generation of musicians. In 2022 he joined guitarist Dave Gisler and trumpeter Jaimie Branch on See You Out There (Intakt Records), and in 2024 his quartet with pianist Marta Sanchez, bassist Luke Stewart and drummer Russell Carter released Francesca (Intakt Records), his first quartet album since 1995's Flowers Around Cleveland (Bleu Regard). It also seems as though this new iteration of Murray involves a willingness to do just about anything; one of the surprises of 2023 was Plumb (J.M.I. Recordings), a massive two-hour slice of avant-garde funk that the saxophonist recorded with Questlove and Ray Angry. So perhaps it is not that surprising to see Murray once again in a less-frequently documented context: this time a freely-improvised meeting, The Recursive Tree, alongside pianist John Blum and drummer Chad Taylor.

When Murray built his early reputation as a firebrand of the 1980s and 1990s avant-garde, he rarely performed or recorded in completely free settings; his maverick tendencies have almost always involved an engagement with the jazz tradition that at times meant re-investigating classic repertoire, and in other moments working his way through his own complex compositions. Hearing him in an unfettered conversation with two like-minded compatriots is thus a real treat. Taylor is a drummer with an unbounded palette, with an impressive string of recent appearances quite remarkable in its own right; and Blum, like Murray, seems to embody the whole of the jazz tradition in his unique pianistic vocabulary, ranging from stride, boogie-woogie and bebop to thunderous fusillades worthy of Cecil Taylor.

The album kicks off with "Fire in the Branches," and with Blum's powerful burst of unaccompanied chords leading Murray and Taylor to jump headlong into the conflagration, it is a striking opening to the session. Murray roams over both lower and higher registers with abandon, and Taylor and Blum bring a fierce rhythmic potency to their playing despite the absence of a fixed pulse. But this encounter is hardly limited to blazing intensity, although there is plenty of it to be found on the album's nine tracks. More subtle touches abound as well, such as the calypso-like phrasing Murray brings to "Kinetic Crawl," or the suitably off-kilter angularity of "Monk's Door," where Blum's careful restraint makes room for Murray's jaunty asides and Taylor's well-placed interjections. It is clear that there is plenty of close listening throughout, with the three-way dialogue of "Creatural" a case in point, built around a five-note phrase Murray introduces and then expands upon, with Blum and Taylor offering their own incisive commentary as the brisk three-minute track unfolds.

Like "Creatural," most of the cuts are relatively compact, but for those who relish the joys of a longer conversation, the trio obliges with the eleven minute-plus closer, "Fractals." Brandishing his axe with authority and seemingly tireless vigor, Murray shows he still has plenty of stamina and creativity to draw upon as he continues this new chapter of his storied career. We can be grateful for it.

Track Listing

Fire in the Branches; Kinetic Crawl; Passage; Hidden Thorns; Monk’s Door; Germination; The Recursive Tree; Creatural; Fractals.

Personnel

John Blum
piano
David Murray
saxophone, tenor

Album information

Title: The Recursive Tree | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Relative Pitch Records


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