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We Is - Live At the Bop Shop

David Murray & Kahil El'Zabar

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Album Review

Although at first glance a full-length tenor-sax/drums duet set might lack variety, this matchup between David Murray and Kahil El'Zabar is on another level. For one thing, El'Zabar plays percussion as much as drums. In addition, neither musician is afraid to use space and silence, and there is no need to play at top volume and intensity all of the time. They are able to form coherent statements without the need for a full rhythm section, and they communicate together very well. The opener "Groove Allure" is relatively peaceful and lyrical while "We Is" is more violent and passionate. "Blues Affirmation" is particularly intriguing, with Murray preaching soulfully on tenor over El'Zabar's thumb piano and affirmative chanting/singing. Murray switches to bass clarinet for "One World Family" and states a powerful melody on "Sweet Meat" before an El'Zabar drum solo. This adventurous and well-constructed live set holds one's interest throughout and is well worth several listens.

Biography

Born: 19 February 1955 in Berkeley, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Initially an inheritor of an abstract/expressionist improvising style originated in the '60s by such saxophonists as Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp, David Murray eventually evolved into something of a mainstream tenorist, playing standards with conventional rhythm sections. However, Murray's readings of the old chestnuts are vastly different from interpretations by bebop saxophonists of his generation. Murray's sound is deep, dark, and furry with a wide vibrato — reminiscent of such swing-era...
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