One of the most revered drummers of the progressive or free jazz movement of the late 1960’s to the present, Sunny Murray came of age in Philadelphia before moving to New York City as a young man. There he cemented his name is jazz history by playing in two of the most groundbreaking ensembles of the era, the early to mid 60’s bands of Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler. Murray freed the drummer from the time keeping role, and allowed the bands he led or collaborated with to be light, nimble and entirely unpredictable.
This previously unreleased recording features Murray in the company of Bob Dickie on bass and bass clarinet and Robert Andreano on guitar. Recorded in Philadelphia in 1994, this album received a very limited release (22 copies!) in 1997 before being remastered in 2019 for this compact disc version. It’s unusual and exciting to hear Murray amidst squalls of electric guitar, but that’s just what you hear on the sprawling opener “Homework” with the guitarist adding a bit of a Sonny Sharrock vibe to the proceedings, while still providing ample room for the textural improvisation Murray was known for, providing sections of quietly probing improvisation.
The music moves organically, ebbing and flowing, picking up steam again as they approach the end of the track with deep rolling drums punctuated by cymbal blasts and taut thick bass framing the pointed guitar playing. There is a quieter groove established on “Swell,” patiently building from a hypnotic Murray motif, spare guitar framing and repetitive bass notes, then developing stylish variations on these themes. “Good Things” has Dickie moving to bass clarinet and the band developing a subtle and low toned performance, gradually picking up speed with gales of clarinet and Murray playing all over his kit in a dervish of sound.
It’s interesting to follow how they use these bursts of speed and then fall back to more abstract sections, floating around the fulcrum of Andreano’s guitar. The wonderfully titled “Why You Need a Lawyer When Your Pants On Fire” is a feature of the drummer, who is truly at the top of his game, balancing rhythms and tempo using accents to develop textures that are just fascinating to hear. Dancing around the entire drum kit and using the cymbals to create a tactile quality that adds essence to the music, at whatever speed he chooses to play.
“Memorial Day” has a strong sound with bowed bass joining the guitar and percussion and mining a rich vein of sound, braiding interwoven threads of music, leading to a powerful collective free improvisation with Dickie moving back to plucked bass and getting an elastic sound that binds the group together, before ending the album with the brief coda “In,” a short snippet of the band playing slash and burn free jazz at full volume and then leaving with a majestic conclusion which is a fitting end to this very interesting album that is justly getting wider recognition with this release.
Be The First To Review This Product!
Help other Birdland Records users shop smarter by writing reviews for products you have purchased.