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David Murray - Live in Berlin: Black Saint Quartet (Jazzwerkstatt, 2010)

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Tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist David Murray has led and recorded several bands during his career, and this group, dubbed the Black Saint Quartet is one of his most stable and long running. Supported by Lafayette Gilchrist on piano, Jaribu Shahid on bass and Hamid Drake on drums, the group achieves a rock solid modern jazz sound. Murray's swooping and swaying saxophone is center stage on this live recording, his penchant for long kaleidoscopic solos is an acquired taste for some, but I find it very exciting. A fine example of this is the opening track, “Dirty Laundry," which allows Murray to stretch out at length over fine accompaniment. Drake is one of the most sought after percussionists on the modern jazz scene, and it is easy to see why here as he and Shahid lock into a wonderful groove that supported by colorful piano accents and provides an excellent spring board for a long and powerful Murray solo. They offer some slower material next, with “Banished" establishing a slow and mournful groove anchored by bowed bass. Murray bubbles up on bass clarinet, keeping the mood somber and reflective. They segue smoothly into “Sacred Ground" a stately ballad with gospel overtones. Gilchrist is fine here, playing lush accompaniment and full bodied solos. They wrap up the set with examples of a few other aspects of their repertoire. “Murray's Steps" is a classic from the great octet records he made in the early '80s and adapts well to the quartet setting, with Drake's massive groove filling the holes. Finally, “Waltz Again" takes them out over a lengthy and patient mid-tempo performance. This was a solid and enjoyable performance; the band is clearly locked in together and capable of performing as a unit or developing thoughtful improvised solos. Part of the fun of following Murray's career is seeing what comes next and a live album from this quartet was most welcome. Live In Berlin—amazon.com

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