David Murray Trio: Coney Island


Coney Island


David Murray Trio with Fred Hopkins and Steve McCall


Sweet Lovely (Black Saint 0039)

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David Murray (tenor sax), Fred Hopkins (bass), Steve McCall (drums).

Composed by David Murray


Recorded: Milano, December 4 or 5, 1979


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

At the time of this recording, in the company of these men, David Murray was arguably the most exciting young musician in jazz. A mere 24 years old, Murray had been playing with the cream of New York's avant-garde crop for several years. In 1979, he seemed to ratchet things up a notch, especially in terms of drummers. That March, he recorded the classic Special Edition album under the leadership of Jack DeJohnette. The following December, Murray recorded Sweet Lovely under his own name, an album that featured another top-rank drummer, Steve McCall.

With bassist Fred Hopkins, McCall formed the rhythm section for Air, one of the great free jazz trios of that or any other era. This recording isn’t simply Air with Murray in place of that band's saxophonist, Henry Threadgill. Murray is much different player than Threadgill, and thus demands a different approach from his rhythm section. Threadgill tends toward the rhythmically abstract. Murray, on the other hand, swings rambunctiously in an almost pre-bop manner, owing much to the influence of such older players as Coleman Hawkins and Paul Gonsalves. On the up-tempo "Coney Island," McCall and Hopkins respond accordingly, generating torrents of swing while interacting constantly with Murray. The tenorist is at his extroverted best, drawing on every tool at his disposal: the enormous and infinitely varied tone, the extreme agility on all registers (especially the highest), the personalized harmonic palette, the unflagging stamina and intensity. With Hopkins and McCall—one of the classic jazz rhythm sections—Murray led perhaps the best trio of his career.

Murray has always been at his best when kicking out all the stops. He does that less often now. This track reminds us how great he was when he did it on a regular basis.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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