Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Twelve Days of Listmas: Day Two

23 David Murray Black Saint Quartet, Sacred Ground

As I mentioned earlier this year, David Murray had long constituted something of a blind spot in my view of free music, and so I decided to jump right in and educate myself. My decision to do so coincided with the release of the saxophonist’s latest for Montreal’s Justin Time label, a triumphant quartet outing with guest vocals by Cassandra Wilson. Wary as I usually am of jazz vocals, not only do Wilson’s manage to not mar the proceedings, they lend a genuine emotional resonance to the issues of race Murray has chosen to address here (the album is an outgrowth of the scoring Murray provided for Banished, a film about the post-Civil War expulsion of blacks from several US communities). Call it Murray’s Blood on the Fields (which also featured Wilson on vocals), only manageable in scope, and devoid of artistic hubris.

The music is suitably sombre, but far from oppressive. This band – Murray on tenor and bass clarinet, Lafayette Gilchrist on piano, Ray Drummond on bass, and Andrew Cyrille on drums – is too lithe to permit that to happen. Murray’s horn is muscular, tough but tender, and clearly invested in these songs. All in all, another highlight in a career (so I’ve recently learned) full of them.

22 Fred Lonberg-Holm Trio, Terminal Valentine

Avant cellist Lonberg-Holm writes, tours, collaborates and records with alarming regularity. It’s a devotion which normal humans like you and I reserve for activities such as blinking. The man is a force, having worked extensively in every corner of the improvised/free music universe, with some spillover into the rock world, as well. This leader date with his own trio, released on Chicago’s Atavistic imprint, is a prime setting for displaying his amazingly horn-like voice on the strings. What makes this record memorable is that, while Lonberg-Holm, bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Frank Rosaly are capable of hair-raising free playing, they never forget the undeniably pretty songs at the core of these pieces.

1 comment:

jazzofonik said...

I recently bought Sacred Ground Myself, and concur with your view entirely. Whilst I believe the album could have stood up well without Wilson's vocals (or Reed's words), they certainly enhance the result