Sunny Murray : Drums
John Edwards : Double Bass
Tony Bevan : Soprano, Tenor and Bass Saxophones
Recorded by Rick Campion at ‘The Vortex’, Dalston, London, England on the 1st September 2009.
“Could Sunny Murray’s left foot actually be the engine at the heart of the universe? That’s what it feels like throughout this live set, recorded at the Vortex in North London, as his clashing hi-hat cymbals churn away relentlessly, the outward manifestation of his internal, eternal sense of abstract swing. Throughout the hour-long title improvisation, Murray the free-jazz legend sounds huge in every way: unstoppable, implacable, monumental. Bevan and Edwards provide suitably heavy support, dealing in thick, dark smudges like oil paint applied with a palette knife â€“ particularly when Bevan switches to Bass sax and Edwards sets up one of his trademark drones. But Sunny is the centre of gravity, operating at a n almost impossibly high level of sustained intensity. Even the 12-minute encore â€“ a spontaneous ballad with Bevan noir-ish and mysterious on the bass sax generates more heat than most players manage in a lifetime. All hail Sunny Murray. 4 stars.” – Daniel Spicer, Jazzwise.
Though it’s not quite as incendiary as this trio’s previous release, The Gearbox, their latest disc (a live date from the Vortex in September 2009) has a celebratory flavour all its own – and well they might celebrate, given the recent release of Sunny’s Time Now, Antoine Prum’s documentary about the great free jazz drummer (which includes footage of this band in action). The main feature here is the hour-long title-track, paced throughout by Murray’s trademark slow-burn hi-hat chomp, which sings out as strongly and persistently as the Bevan’s horns and (after a while) gives you the pleasantly dizzy sense of having been shaken like a rag doll. Bevan shows off his penchant for soaring motivic play: when he first enters (on tenor sax) he sketches out an off-the-cuff honest-to-goodness tune that the players toy with for the next 15 minutes; by sharp contrast, on soprano he seems to be trying to draw together several different approaches, migrating from scorching themeless volleys to yammered repetition to his usual blunt tunefulness. When his bass sax comes into play it throws various other things in the mix, giving bassist John Edwards a whole new set of options: laying pinging high-register pizz on top of the horn’s beastly mutterings, or letting loose with quivering arco in response to Bevan’s gravelly swathes. Throughout the piece there’s the exciting sound of three strong but sympathetic personalities rubbing up against each other – listen to Bevan’s closing tenor feature, where Edwards insists on warping every harmonic resolution the saxophonist proposes, and Murray pulls against any neat resolution with an enjoyably rumbly coda. The drummer switches to brushes for the closer, “Ballad for G”, a deepsea exploration of jazz time in all its infinite variety: as Bevan works over a glum little riff he provokes increasingly ecstatic responses from Murray, ranging from old-fashioned double-time to gnashing hi-hat hyperdrive. It’s not really a ballad, more of an exploded riff on West Coast Cool, but (who knows?) maybe Sunny Murray: The Ballads Album is around the corner. Bet that’d be a stunner, too. – Nate Dorward, Paris Transatlantic
Recorded live during Sunny Murray’s now legendary residency at London’s Vortex in 2009, ‘Boom Boom Cat’ captures the drum master in full flight and playing at the top of his game. Antoine Prum, Director of the recent documentary on Murray, Sunny’s Time Now is on record as saying: “The European trio is certainly the best thing that’s happened to him in the last few years, as that group has helped him recuperate a large part of the energy that characterized his earlier performances.” In fact Murray was so energized that he finished the final ten minutes of the first set unaccompanied, wreathed with sweat, to the incredulity of Bevan who, after the tumultuous applause subsided, was moved to exclaim: “Before we played, Sunny was saying to me and John to wear him out! Indefatigable, at the start of the second set, Murray chatted to the audience. There had been a question-and-answer session programmed between sets the previous evening, but this discourse proved more of a monologue, offering a glimpse of the drummer as a likely lad. Eventually Murray seated himself behind his kit for a laid back start, with Bevan’s ecstatic tenor cries and Edwards’slow deliberate plucks making for a slow burning groove which promised to be at least the equal of the first set. Sadly, just as Bevan was harnessing up to unleash his bass sax once more, I had to leave for the last train home, with the marvelous music still echoing round Gillett Square as I departed. However, the array of mics festooned around the stage suggested that the gig was being recorded, so with luck I might yet get to hear how the second set turned out, and those unable to make any of this two-day run might be able to confirm that it was indeed Sunny’s time once more.” – Allabout Jazz
Murray is the magic ingredient that makes this trio so magnificent. Anyone who can take to the stage with Bevan and Edwards on an equal footing deserves respect; Murray has a lot of additional weight to carry: it can’t be easy being a Jazz legend. But Murray’s current rep doesn’t rest on his contributions to Jazz history. The passion and feeling he invests in his drumming is palpable and energising; more than that this trio works wonderfully well together in that special way that only the most congruous partnerships do. – The Jazzman
FOGCD011 : Boom Boom Cat (Foghorn Records Feb 1st 2010)
Produced by Tony Bevan. Mixed by Tony Bevan, Ashley Wales and Rupert Stevenson. All pieces are free improvisations by Murray (Murrayism Music), Edwards and Bevan (both PRS). C&P Foghorn Records (UK) 2010. Photographs by Cesar Merino: www.cesarmerino.com. Design by Paul Dunn at Diablo: www.diablodesign.co.uk. Thanks to George at The Vortex.