Former Was (Not Was) saxophonist Dave McMurray knows how to conjure a party spirit, a jazz spirit, and for some bizarre reason, the spirits of South African saxophonists Basil Coetzee and Dudu Pukwana. Though he’s a Detroit native who’s worked with everyone from the Rolling Stones to Nancy Wilson to Bootsy Collins, his groove-splayed tunes contain a township vibe, of celebration, of funk, of souls set free.
For Music Is Life, McMurray has chosen pleasant originals and a handful of covers that should endear him to listeners of all stripes, including the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog,” and “Que Je T’Aime,” a tune made famous by French pop star Johnny Hallyday. Luckily, his throaty horn holds this exotic brew together. Working with only a bassist (Ibrahim Jones) and drummer (either Ron Otis or Jeff Canady), he creates a big sound with a small crew.