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Blog // Sounds
March 15, 2010

David Murray’s Black Saint Quartet

It’s a credit to the Hong Kong Arts Festival organisers that every year they bring serious and challenging Jazz artists to Hong Kong. This year the festival brought as saxophonist David Murray – one of the clearest and most powerful voices in today’s Jazz scene. Sadly, these particular concerts are often disappointing – not in […]

It’s a credit to the Hong Kong Arts Festival organisers that every year they bring serious and challenging Jazz artists to Hong Kong. This year the festival brought as saxophonist David Murray – one of the clearest and most powerful voices in today’s Jazz scene.

Sadly, these particular concerts are often disappointing – not in terms of performances, but in terms of audience response and engagement. Last year Chick Corea and John McLauglin brought a huge amount of energy and dynamism to hall replete with empty seats (review here). In my vicinity there were a dozen empty spaces and I was in the third row, centre section of the stalls (close enough to read the screen on Corea’s MacBook!). Ornette Coleman gave us one of the richest jazz concerts I’ve ever heard, yet people started leaving after 20 minutes (review here).

Thankfully, no one left the David Murray concert until the 40 minute mark, and the depatures after that were a trickle by comparision to the Coleman gig. But, when the concert ended, the lights came on immediately and there was an embarrasing rush for the door. A hardy few cheered for an encore, which for a long time didn’t look like it would come.

To be honest, the audience had been lukewarm all night. Surprising since Murray had played his most accesible material and his band (Jaribu Shahid on Bass, Lafayette Gilchrist on Piano and Hamid Drake on Drums) were lively, vibrant.

Murray is, quite simply, an extraordinary player. Now fully mature in both technqiue and voice, he commands an amazing power to change registers mid phrase and play both long fluid lines, and sharply percussive phrases of short notes. He can make a sax sound like a synthesiser and a bass clarinet sound like a funk guitar.

But, Murray’s brilliance doesn’t just exist on a technical level. The quality of his ideas and phrasing throughout the concert was breath-taking. Murray’s lines are often painterly – like strokes of expression that move freely and expansively within the time and structure of the tunes.

I was captivated and enthralled through the whole concert, pulled out of my rapture only by the self conscious feeling that comes when you realise you are the person in your vicintity applauding a solo, or clapping loudly at the end of a song.

When the encore did finally come it was a thing of awesome ferocity. To a nearly empty hall Murray played like his hair was on fire and the band supported him with a staggering and relentless intensity. It was a blistering, brilliant and cliche-free ending to a stunning gig – it’s just a shame most of the audience were not there to see it.

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