David Murray & the Gwo Ka Masters (with Taj Mahal and Sista Kee): Southern Skies


Southern Skies


David Murray & the Gwo Ka Masters (with Taj Mahal and Sista Kee)


The Devil Tried to Kill Me (Justin Time 224)

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David Murray (tenor sax), Taj Mahal (guitar, vocals), Sista Kee (vocals, piano),

Jaribu Shahid (bass), Renzel Merrit (drums), Klod Kiavue (ka drums, vocals), Francois Ladrezeau (ka drums, vocals), Rasul Siddik (trumpet), Christian Laviso (guitar), Herve Samb (guitar)


Composed by Grace Rutledge, Kito Gamble and David Murray


Recorded: Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe (May 2007) and Oakland (June 2007)


Rating: 88/100 (learn more)

David Murray returns to the studio with traditional Guadeloupian gwo-ka percussionists, and this time brings along Taj Mahal and Sista Kee as guest vocalists. As you may know, Taj Mahal comes from a blues perspective and Sista Kee a gospel-rap orientation, but, honestly, there aren't enough genres to go around here. The Caribbean participants deliver a blistering world music beat, while Murray and the rhythm section superimpose their brand of heavy James Brown-ish funk. So this is one occasion when the well-known guests on the date adapt to the hosts rather than the other way around. Murray contributes an aggressive solo over a static harmonic accompaniment, but this isn't the place for fancy chord changes. The rhythm, hot and unrelenting, is the centerpiece here, and David Murray risks coming across like a sideman at his own date. Even the mix sends that message. It sounds like the rest of the band has been pushed back behind a partition of percussion. Is it jazz? Is it dance music for the block party of all time? I'll leave the labels to others, but I will validate the potent rhythm content, which is filled to the brim and spilling over the sides.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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