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David Murray, Pharoah Sanders, and the Gwo-Ka Masters . . .
Jan P. Dennis | Monument, CO USA | 07/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
". . . a very potent brew.And one that lodges in the back of your brain like a musical burr of the most tenacious, albeit felicitous, sort.What we've got here is one of David Murray's wild musical experiments--bringing together the reigning maestro of jazz tenor sax (Pharoah Sanders) with the mesmerizing ka drums of Klod Kiavue, the killer rhythm section of Jaribu Shahid and Hamid Drake, and some absolutely stunning Caribbean brass players and singers. The result must be heard to be believed. Look, these things, which sound so natural if pulled off, don't always work. It was a risk--although understandable--to bring Pharoah Sanders, the man possessing the most distinct, glorious, and immediately recognizable tone in the history of the tenor sax, on board. He fits in so easily, it's almost as if this were the music for which he has perfected his astounding technique and tone. His entire performance on the opening number, but especially his mesmeric, declamatory, riveting solo, defies belief. David Murray follows with what I believe is one of his finest solo efforts ever recorded, seemingly driven to greater heights by the master, Sanders, but still falling far short of the latter's genius. Although Sanders plays on only three numbers, he's featured on the three longest ones and therefore is on board for about half the time. I, for one, am simply flabbergasted by Sanders's sound and concept whenever I hear him. One thing he does is prove that diligence in sticking to one thing can sometimes result in rewards and achievements beyond imagining.Also on display here and throughout the disc is the enthralling guitar work of Christian Laviso, who brings that get-under-your-skin West African guitar thing fully to the fore with simply jaw-dropping technique, all in the service to musicality of the highest order (check out his intro to "O'leonso" and his mind-boggling solo on "Ouagadougou").Murray, himself, seems even more energized (and with David Murray, we're talking about one of the highest-energy players in the history of jazz) than usual. Which, strangely, almost uncannily, fits these proceedings perfectly, what with their off-the-scale-although-perfectly-apposite muscular workouts. Even though, to these ears, he's only the third-most vibrant player, Murray's genius in conceptualizing this project, the coming-to-fruition of numerous forays into similar territory, bespeaks a savvy and humility that, oddly, makes him the overall greatest presence on this remarkable disc.The last shall be first.David Murray at the absolute top of his game, with the inimitable Pharoah Sanders on board, in the middle of an enthralling gumbo of world-jazz ethnicity: Not to be missed."