David Murray: Flowers for Albert: The Complete Concert

What a difference a decade makes. In the lofty mid-’70s, David Murray was a brash young turk whose reach often exceeded his grasp. Yet, by the mid-’80s, the tenor saxophonist had solidified his position as one of the brightest lights of his generation. An expanded, 2-disc version of his 1976 debut, Flowers for Albert, and the reissue of The Hill from ’86, serve as instructive bookends of this intriguing transformation.

On Flowers for Albert, Murray’s unflagging energy compensates for the occasional miscue and conceptual dead-end. Still, the most daring and technically difficult components of his mature style are in place and functioning most of the time. It is also noteworthy that the program includes several well-hooked Murray compositions which still occasionally crop up in performance and on disc. However, it is the flinty rapport between Murray, trumpeter Olu Dara, bassist Fred Hopkins, and drummer Phillip Wilson, that holds the session together.

The versions of Murray’s “Santa Barbara and Crenshaw Follies” and “The Hill” included on Murray’s trio date with bassist Richard Davis and drummer Joe Chambers may be more polished than the versions on Flowers for Albert, but they are no less jarring. It is this mix of gleam and grit that separates his versions of “Take the Coltrane” and “Chelsea Bridge” from those of a legion of would-be tenor titans. The other measure of his matriculation is his trio mates: in ’76, Murray would have played beyond himself to run with Davis and Chambers; in ’86, they are collaborators.