David Murray Octet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

David Murray Octet 

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In the early 80s David Murray brightened the jazz world with his octet, a hot little big band featuring clever arrangements and ingenious interpreters, so it's promising news that he's touring with a new octet in 1992. While Murray's composing doesn't quite sound like that of the late, volatile Charles Mingus, he does share a good many of the Big M's interests, virtues, and faults. Like Mingus, Murray dreams up attractive, blues-filled themes, and he has the imagination and orchestrative mastery to make them lovely and colorful; he covers a territory from ballads to finger-popping swingers, and he also does Mingus-like impressions--part tribute, part parody--of past mastersl and his pieces sometimes topple over into a mess of virtuoso effects. There are orchestrations on his new octet's CD Hope Scope (Black Saint) with chord changes, with modes, and without fixed harmonic structures; one is comic Ellingtonia, with wa-wa brass and ripe tenor sax; another is a cluttered, mystifying "outside" piece. When Murray stretches out on tenor sax, he's simultaneously highly mannered (you just know he'll play melodic phrases here, expand the harmony there, honk and squeal there) and extremely diffuse; fairly often, though, the discipline of his scores lends order and coherence to his improvising. The lyric Hugh Ragin and the growling, note-bending Rasul Siddik are his trumpeters; bawdy, brawling Frank Lacy is his trombonist; old-timer James Spaulding (alto sax), Dave Burrell (piano), Wilber Morris (bass), and the wonderful Andrew Cyrille (drums) complete the group. Like Mingus, Murray has lots of ups and downs, so this is an unpredictable event--but it could be a whole lot of fun. Tonight, 8 and 11 PM, Hothouse, 1565 N, Milwaukee; 235-2334.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/David Gahr.

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