David Murray & Milford Graves: Real Deal
David Murray (tenor saxophone on 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8, bass clarinet on 4 and 7),
Milford Graves (drums and percussion)
1. Stated With Peace (David Murray) 7:50
2. The Third Day (David Murray) 8:50
3. Luxor (David Murray) 8:29
4. Under & Over (Milford Graves) 6:03
5. Moving About (Milford Graves) 11:08
6. Ultimate High Priest (Milford Graves) 6:27
7. Essential Soul (Milford Graves) 10:49
8. Continuity (David Murray) 4:10
Recorded November 3, 1991, at Power Station, NYC
This album came 11 records into Murray's tenure with DIW records and, as would be suggested by a duo performance with Milford Graves, it probably has more in common with Murray's earlier performances than with his other work of that time. During most of October and early 1991 Murray seemed to have been locked in the Power Station recording studio in New York City, and with nothing else to do he embarked on a mammoth recording session with a wide array of different musicians. This duo performance was the last of a run that included a quartet with James Blood Ulmer, Murray's then concert quartet with Bradford Marsalis added on two tracks, and a beautiful quartet/quintet recording with some of his earlier collaborators including Bobby Bradford, Dave Burrell, and Fred Hopkins.
'Moving About' is perhaps the most imaginative and satisfactory of the tracks as a collaboration. While elsewhere the sax and drums sometimes sound like they a running on parallel lines, here the drum textures seem to offer Murray something to work with, and his playing is ecstatic but rooted. Nevertheless my favourite track is 'Essential Soul'. Perhaps because I favour Murray over Graves, and I always feel that this period is the strongest for Murray's Bass Clarinet playing. Here Murray's playing might be more independent, but Graves is more restrained, and he follows Murray's lead even though this is the percussionist's composition. I just adore Murray's exposition. Others may find it meandering, and it doesn't seem to have any sense of direction, or any musical resolution; it's just one of those beautiful Murray journeys. I don't really care where it is going. 'Under & Over' is almost jolly, and there is some real interaction as Murray takes a much more percussive role on Bass Clarinet, and produces some of his best squeals and squarks, in a uncanny copy of his tenor saxophone playing. This was a real instrumental master at work. Luxor investigates the tumultuous side of Murray, and 'The Third Day' is almost middle eastern to my untrained ear, with lots of busy traps playing from Graves.
Graves is venerated as much, I feel, because his recordings are a rare commodity, and yet he is striking even amongst free drummers. He certainly became enamored of complex timbres and his playing is often more musical than rhythmic in the jazz swing sense. In the New York Art Quartet started out as a conventional traps drummer in a strong and idealist group, joining Albert Ayler for Holy Ghost and Love Cry (where he seems toitally dominated), he then appeared intermittently on disk with a range of his own groups and in small scale settings. I do love his work on Nommo with Don Pullen, in a combination of jangle and cavernous percussion with dark piano clusters that shouldn't work, but does. This is real textual stuff, in which who is the percussionist and who the melodist seems a stupid question. I would be interested to find out who had the idea of pairing him with Murray. It isn't that there wasn't a precedent. Murray seemed to like percussive percussionists, and had played with Sunny Murray, Philip Wilson, and Andrew Cyrille within three years of arriving in New York. he then went on to work with some of the best drummers in jazz, followed by experiments with Kahil El'Zabar from the late 1980s into the 1990s. later Murray would explore a whole wider world of percussion in collaborations with African and Caribbean percussionists.
Although it is possible to still buy a new copy of this recording for as little as $18, and a second hand one for as much as $80, it does seem to be out of print. I don't hold this in the top pile of Murray work, but for those willing to spend a little time acclimatising, and especially if they are willing to suspend their belief that music has to have a purpose beyond the moment, this is exactly the real deal.