Justin Time Records
David Murray's latest CD returns him to one of his most rewarding, if occasionally uneven, collaborative ventures: blending jazz and Guadeloupean music. On Yonn-De Murray again teams with vocalist Guy Konket and gwo-ka drummers Klod Kiavue and Francois Ladrezeau, blending their contributions with his regular band: trumpeter Hugh Ragin, trombonist Craig Harris, bassist Santi Debriano and drummer Pheeroan AkLaff. The results are often thrilling, particularly on the disc's first number, "Twa Jou San Manje." While the gwo-ka drums provide multiple percolating percussive patterns and AkLaff's traps slice and slither over their rhythms, Murray and Ragin provide their customary distinguished solos. Murray begins with a bellowing, thudding call, then moves into a deeper, more anguished solo, which Ragin answers with stuttering notes, rippling choruses, breaks and effects. Konket's chants, cries, moans and energetic vocals anchor the song, while Harris, Debriano and AkLaff find their way in and out of the maze. There are several other tremendous pieces, too, notably "Youyou," "Moman Colombo" and "Onomatopee (Boula Djel)."
There's only one problem with Yonn-De, and it's a question of time and pace. While there's no denying how hypnotic the gwo-ka drums sound, it is difficult to sustain excitement and interest with them during a 70-minute album. At its best, several Yonn-De selections are better suited as festival or carnival music-songs that need the additional component of an active audience. While Murray and his band are exceptional players, there are some numbers where even their greatness can't be a substitute for the additional energy of a participatory crowd. But that's no knock on this record's quality, because many of these numbers sound almost magical in their presentation. Even if you don't understand Guy Konket's vocals, his presence and charisma are undeniable.
David Murray keeps making compelling records, and this one's no different, despite occasional inconsistent stretches.