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Greg Murphy: Orientation

This album is a miscellany of at least four things, all of them competent, none of them distinguished. First is Greg Murphy’s Coltrane bag. He has played piano with the saxophone legend’s last drummer, Rashied Ali, for nearly 20 years, so his Coltrane connection is real. Murphy’s quintet has tenor saxophonist Lawrence Clark, who can channel Coltrane with stunning verisimilitude. Murphy does a very credible McCoy Tyner, too. Derivativeness notwithstanding, the group’s familiarity with this music and their passion for it make pieces like “Trane’s Mode” fun. (The visceral in-your-face recorded sound of engineer Paul Wickliffe also aids the cause.)

The second, Murphy’s piano-trio-ballad persona, is perhaps the best. “I Thought About You” and “What’s New” are never startling, but Murphy’s percussive touch gives their rhapsodic intensity an aggressive, chiseled quality.

The third and fourth items-Murphy’s Latin and electric jazz fusion projects-are less interesting. “Keeping It Simple” fulfills the promise of its title all too well. “Alternate Voices” offers minimal musical content amid its electronic swirls and washes. Fortunately, we are spared the clichéd commonplaces and strained rhymes of the song’s lyrics, which appear only in the liner notes.

Originally Published