It's an old debate: Is jazz best understood in terms of musical styles or in terms of personalities?
Saxophonist David Murray's opening night of a four-night run at the Jazz Bakery Wednesday argues firmly for the latter. The emotive, over-the-top tenorman has so much personality that he's a category unto himself.
Fronting his trio of the last couple years--bassist Kelly Roberty and drummer Brad Edwards--Murray frequently whipped an enthusiastic audience into shouts, cheers and even standing ovations with his hyperactive, tonally expansive attack. Even such attractive, uncomplicated themes as "Flowers for Albert," Murray's tribute to the late Albert Ayler, exploded during improvisational sections in sounds that spoke emphatically of Murray's joys, sorrows and frustrations.
Despite the shrieks, honks and caterwauls, Murray's play always possessed a sense of control. No matter how wild the phrases or piercing the tonal quality, Murray maintained a trace of flow, maintaining the barest thread of rhythmic or melodic current. This ploy guaranteed that no matter how far out the saxophonist traveled, the audience was able to come along.