David Murray – ts, bc
David Murray, one of the foremost jazz saxophonists, clarinettists, leaders and composers of our time, has visited Vilnius Jazz in 2008 with his “Black Saint Quartet”. This time in his European tour he teams up with the fiery Norwegian rhythm tandem.
Flaten and Nilssen-Love have also appeared on Vilnius Jazz scene – three years ago they were part of “The Thing” trio.
The Norwegians toured Europe with the American saxophone legend for the first time in May 2019, using compositions by Murray and also people like Yusef Lateef, Butch Morris and Aretha Franklin as starting points of improvisations.
Few musicians in jazz history have proven more vigorously productive and resourceful than David Murray. From the moment he first visited New York in 1975, he has released over 150 albums under his name. Yet more impressive than the numbers is his individualism, which puts him out of the line of other greats. According to critics, he has: an instantly recognisable approach to improvisation that even in its freest flights acknowledges the gravity of a tradition he honours more than most; and readiness for every musical challenge and exploration.
Already at the beginning of his career Murray acquired a reputation as a potential musician. His musical personality was formed by jazz, blues and gospel. Born in Oakland, as a child Murray played music in church with his parents and brothers, and studied music with his mother, an organist.
However, Murray’s ideals changed before long. He attended Pomona College, where he studied with trumpeter Bobby Bradford, a former sideman of Ornette Coleman. Around this time, he met the writer Stanley Crouch, who became his unofficial publicity agent.
After settling in New York in 1975, Murray followed in the footsteps of Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp, the harbingers of free jazz. He had a penchant for distorted timbres, extremes of volume, and forays into the horn’s uppermost reaches and untamed improvisations. He experimented in Studio Infinity, which he established together with Crouch.
New York served as a setting for new encounters: Sunny Murray, Oliver Lake, Anthony Braxton, Don Cherry, Lester Bowie and Frank Lowe among other jazz greats. Here he met and played with Cecil Taylor, who along with Dewey Redman, gave the young musician the encouragement he needed.
In 1976, Murray set up the “World Saxophone Quartet” with Oliver Lake, Hamiet Bluiett and Julius Hemphill. This marked the beginning of an intensely creative time with an endless permutation of formations – quartet, then octet, and finally quintet. From this time on he focused more on his own ensembles, although he also has worked with other musicians from Guadeloupean drums to South African dancers and musicians.
At the end of the ‘90s, Murray was frequently associated with fusion, world music and even pan-Africanism. At the time he also composed film soundtracks, worked with “Urban Bust Women” dance company and other theatre people, arranged compositions by Duke Ellington, Paul Gonsalves and Nat King Cole among other jazz icons.
Moreover, Murray composed two operas: The Blackamoor of Peter the Great for strings and voices (2004), based on selection of Pushkin poems, and The Sysiphus Revue, a bop opera for gospel choir (2008).
In 2006, the saxophonist revived “Black Saint Quartet” as a tribute to the legendary Italian label Black Saint, which released 17 of his albums recorded together with “World Saxophone Quartet”, Randy Weston, Dave Burell, Lawrence “Butch” Morris, Olu Dara, Anthony Davis, Craig Harris, John Hicks, James “Blood” Ulmer, Don Pullen, Steve Coleman to name but a few. It was one his most successful creative periods.
In recent years, Murray has been focusing on projects with vocalists. The soul music star Macy Gray, one of his Muses, has enhanced a number of Murray’s albums. Together with his big band she has conquered audiences in festivals such as Jazz A La Villette (Paris), London Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival (the Netherlands), and more. His “Infinity Quartet” debut album features Gregory Porter, and the second one – Saul Williams, a spoken word artist.
Perfection, featuring pianist Geri Allen and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, marked a new milestone in Murray’s discography.
Several directors have brought his musical career to the screen: Speaking in Tongues, a saga, which follows him for ten years from 1978 to 1988, as well as Jazzman (1997), and Saxophone Man (produced by Arte in 2007).
The musician’s awards include a Grammy, the Bird Award, the Danish Jazzpar Prize, Ralph J. Simon Rex Award, Village Voice musician of the ‘80s. In addition, Pomona College endowed him with the title of the Honorary Doctor.
Double bassist and composer Ingebrigt Håker Flaten is not a stranger in Lithuanian jazz circuits – in the past he has appeared in Vilnius Jazz with Scandinavian groups “The Thing” and “Atomic”, and American “The Young Mothers”.
He studied jazz at the Music Conservatory in Trondheim. Later he honed his skills with various Scandinavian and American groups.
Flaten draws inspiration from such diverse figures as Derek Bailey, George Russell, Chris McGregor and filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, as well as gritty punk music and contemporary pop melody, and also everyday sights and sounds. The critics compare the double bassist to such celebrities as Paul Chambers, Wilbur Ware, Charlie Haden and Malachi Favors.
It would be difficult to imagine “The Thing”, “Free Fall”, “Atomic” and “Scorch Trio” without Flaten’s curiosity and flexibility. In 2004, the improviser made his debut as a leader with his “Chicago Sextet”, and since 2011 his aesthetics and philosophy has been communicated by Austin-based (Texas) “The Young Mothers”.
In 2009, he settled in Texas where he formed not only a band but also an avant-garde festival Sonic Transmissions, which merged punk, hip-hop, free jazz and Indie scenes. Critics are unanimous in saying that the Norwegian opened new vistas for locals and considerably raised the standard of alternative music in Austin.
Flaten has also recorded and performed with Frode Gjerstad, Dave Rempis, Bobby Bradford, the AALY Trio, Ken Vandermark, Stephen Gauci, Tony Malaby, Daniel Levin, Dennis Gonzalez and numerous others. The influential jazz magazine Downbeat annual critics poll repeatedly voted him among the top musicians.
Drummer, composer and producer Paal Nilssen-Love was raised at a jazz club in Stavanger, run by his parents. It was natural to choose his fathers drums as his instrument and jazz as his work.
While still a student at the Jazz Department of the University in Trondheim he started establishing his own bands and gaining international recognition. At the age 19, Paal formed the “Element” quartet, which musically became a platform for several other groups of his and led to collaborations with Iain Ballamy and Chris Potter.
In 1996, the musician moved to Oslo, where he joined and/or took part in the forming of bands like “Vindaloo”, “SAN”, Håkon Kornstad Trio and Quintet, and Frode Gjerstad Trio. Later on he got more into his own projects and collaborations with Swedish improvisers Sten Sandell and Mats Gustafsson.
Nilssen played his first solo concert in 1999, and since then the solo concept has been an important part of his work: “Everyone should try doing some solo work, just to feel who you really are and what gets you going”.
Being active in several bands at the same time has always been the drummer’s deliberate working method. According to him, playing is not about getting from start to finish, but rather being in an everlasting process, a continuous movement where each new piece of music performed is a prolongation of the latest.
Before turning 30, Nilssen has stated his position as one of the most profiled drummers in Europe. Today in addition to “The Thing”, his portfolio includes “Atomic”, “School Days”, “Territory Band”, “FME”, Frode Gjerstad Trio, Sten Sandell Trio, Scorch Trio, and various duo projects such as with Ken Vandermark, John Butcher, Mats Gustafsson, organist Nils Henrik Asheim and sound wizard Lasse Marhaug. He is also a member of Peter Brötzmann Tentet.
The drummer has made numberless performances at festivals and clubs in Europe and the USA and participated on more than 50 recordings. He runs his own annual improvised music festival All Ears in Oslo, and plans to start his own recording label for vinyl productions.