02.Samson and Delilah
06.One More Saturday Night
07.Shoulda Had Been Me (w/Bob Weir on accoustic guitar)
David Murray - tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Hugh Ragin - trumpet
James Zoller or Omar Kabir - trumpet
Craig Harris - trombone
James Spaulding - alto saxophone, flute
Robert Irving III - piano, hammond B-3 organ, synthesizer
Fred Hopkins - bass
Renzell Meritt - drums
Bob Weir - guitar (Track 7)
Leave it to David Murray, one of contemporary music's more willfully mercurial souls, to take on the Grateful Dead--and get away with it.
Deadheads, however, should be forewarned: Dark Star: The Music of the Grateful Dead (Astor Place Recordings) doesn't doodle, diddle or
dawdle about as did the Grateful Dead in those inevitable "experimental" patches during live shows. As reconstituted by the David Murray
Octet, the tenor saxophonist's brilliant ensemble, the San Francisco band's much-ballyhooed predilection for improvisation straightens up and
flies right to the meat of the matter--which is to really groove.
Dead standbys like "Shakedown Street," "One More Saturday Night" and "Dark Star" assume new life, and much of the credit must go to
Murray's little big band, which includes such stellar talents as alto saxophonist/flute player James Spaulding; trombonist Craig Harris; trumpeter
James Zoller; and bassist Fred Harris (ex-Dead guitarist Bobby Weir sits in on "Shoulda Had Been Me.) Murray, who is responsible for the
session's robust arrangements, doesn't "go out" just for the hell of it. Indeed, though things get wild and wool-headed occasionally on top (hear
Zoller's zany solo on "Shakedown"), the rhythm section hews to the basics, aside from the episodic bout of tricky meters.
Murray's own tenor playing is, of course, brimming with invention, ferreting about in his instrument's middle register, then sprinting vertically to
Albert Ayler territory--the dog whistle gone avant-garde. As Murray has shown throughout his tenure in his divergent permutations, he's no fat-
head; he does his wild thing and then gets out of the way to allow whoever's next in line to blow. Intriguingly, the introduction to "One More
Saturday Night" comes off like a cross between the Band, circa Rock of Ages, and the World Saxophone Quartet (another Murray project) doing
Dixieland. The melody is easily recognizable and danceable, and Hopkins and drummer Renzell Merritt handle the fundamentals more like R&B
vets than new-music mavericks, with Merritt pounding out a mammoth-sized beat.
In the view of many critics, Murray is the most exceptional multi-reed player to emerge since the death of John Coltrane some 30 years ago.
That was as true when he arrived on the New Black Music scene in the middle of the 1970s as it is right now. It's no less true as we approach
the next millennium.