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David Murray Quartet: Seasons

Ubiquitous tower of power David Murray has recorded with practically everyone on the planet…except these guys. Sir Roland Hanna, Richard Davis and Victor Lewis provide the tenor titan with a different kind of rhythm section than he’s normally accostumed to. On this set of balladic standards-gems like Frank Loesser’s “Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year” (a brilliant bass clarinet showcase), a swinging take on Richard Rodgers’ “Spring Is Here,” a sprightly bossa nova rendition of Vernon Duke’s “Autumn In New York,” and Sammy Cahn’s “Let It Snow”-they provide empathetic, at times fragile accompaniment. The net effect is to reign in Murray’s audacious power a bit, though he can hardly help himself from occasional fits of double timing and circular breathing. It’s kind of like asking Nolan Ryan (Am I dating myself here?) to take the mound in an underhand slow-pitch softball game.

Still, Murray has great capacity for lyrical playing, as he so soulfully demonstrates on the Hanna-penned title track and on Michel Legrand’s melancholy “The Summer Knows.” His love of Ben Webster comes across on a fairly straightforward, easy-swinging rendition of Victor Herbert’s “Indian Summer” and on a poignant take on Kurt Weill’s “September Song,” which also features some superb arco playing at the intro by Davis. He brandishes the bass clarinet once again on a lovely rendition of Claude Thornhill’s evocative “Snowfall.”

With the exception of a jaunty interpretation of the Al Dubin/Harry Warren chestnut “September in the Rain,” there are none of the swaggering fusillades, outrageous octave leaps and Ayleresque shrieks here that have marked Murray’s more aggressive playing over the years. He does put on the brakes, to a degree, allowing the compositions (and Hanna’s wonderfully seasoned touch) to shine. The result is more of a smolder than a burn; warm and engaging as opposed to white hot and raging.

Originally Published