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January/February 2006

David Murray 4Tet & Strings
Waltz Again
Justin Time Records

David Murray may have recorded more than any 50-year-old musician in the history of jazz. His discography is approaching 150 entries. He has survived the overexposure because, on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, he has always had the goods. While his intervallic blasts, slurred glissandi and harmonic jaggedness recall his outcat youth, Murray has mellowed. His more extreme devices are now colorful details within somewhat kinder, gentler musical designs.

Waltz Again is ambitious. It contains five compositions for a large ensemble containing Murray's 4Tet (pianist Lafayette Gilchrist, bassist Jaribu Shahid and drummer Hamid Drake) plus five violins, two violas, two cellos and contrabass. The centerpiece is the 26-minute "Pushkin Suite," in seven movements.

Regrettably, Murray's writing for strings lacks a sure sense of detail and space. His string ensemble is dense and congealed, noisy and mostly unattractive. The recorded sound, which places Murray too far back in the mix, does not help. Murray's playing is often compelling, even startling. But by the third or fourth track, you begin to wish for those violins to cease and desist and get out of his way. This is not a bad album. It's just that, with David Murray, there are so many others to choose from.

Originally published in January/February 2006
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