Paul Murphy & Larry Willis

Album Review

It takes raw passion, energy and skill to develop something outside of the existing paradigm; to create something different, something new. With the release of Foundations, it is apparent that drummer, Paul F. Murphy, and pianist, Larry Willis, have the determination and ability for the task.

The record is the fifth installment from the duo. Like their previous album, Exposé, Foundations is a completely improvised display of each player's mastery of their instrument. Murphy, long recognized for his aptitude and attention to composition, plays with his familiar agility and dexterous speed, accompanying Willis with texture and sound that meld bebop and the avant-garde into a rotating sphere. Willis’ captivating bop oriented themes permeate each tune. The pianist opens the record’s title track creating an excitement reminiscent of the clicks of a roller-coaster car on its way to the top of the initial peak.

Each track surges with unpredictable energy, motion and innovation. Foundations' improvisations are infused with a tight-knit interplay derived from experience, sage, and trust. The two players rely on each other and have faith in the other’s next move. When Willis asks a question Murphy knows just how to answer and vice versa. Often, the record goes to deep places of thunderous and intricate sound-scapes as in “Epigraph” and “Equinox” but is also saturated by captivating chordal paintings like “Dance Pointe.” “Morel” shows how with just one stroke from Murphy's precise hands the direction of a tune can shift in an instant. “Preter” and “June Jump,” are excellent showcases of the duo's impeccable communication and seeming pre-calculation creating spontaneous compositions that often raise as much disbelief and wonder as they do awe and inspiration.

Foundations breaks away from the “norms” of jazz, with a fresh approach that combines bop and avante-garde for something new, yet the categorization seems to come more from a desire to categorize rather than an ability to do so.

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Dominic Fragman