David Murray has never been one to stick to a single group, or even group size, for that long a period. Having played in bands of various sizes he has at times favoured quartets and octets (of which you should absolutely check out his octets collection from Black Saint & Soul Note), more recently he has played with much larger big bands, to great effect, but with his newest release ‘Be My Monster Love’ he makes a return to the always popular ‘traditional’ quartet setting.
A largely new group, and dubbed the ‘Infinity Quartet’, Murray here is given uniformly excellent support by piano and organ player Marc Cary, bassist Jaribu Shahid and drummer Nasheet Waits, who all hit the ground running on the opening ‘French Kiss For Valerie’. Armed with a winning groove it none-the-less also showcases a great blend of various styles, from the refined and melodic up to the more open and freer emotionally charged.
On release ‘Be My Monster Love’ was largely noted for it’s well-known guest singers, and although they all make a strong impression, soul star Macy Gray gets the juicy title cut, and makes sure she gives her everything in a powerful and emotionally charged performance that’ll make many wish she followed this stronger, though perhaps less commercial, direction.
Fast rising jazz singer Gregory Porter hits the mark too, on the tasty R’n’B of ‘Army Of The Faithful’, and a more introspective and moving ballad in ‘Sorrow Song’, while ‘About The Children’ offers up a more Latin vibe with a heavy dose of Soul (with a capital ‘S’).
Despite being billed as the ‘Infinity Quartet’, the singers aren’t the only guests however. Trumpet man extraordinaire Bobby Bradford drops in for some fine blues strutting on ‘The Graduate’ and very almost steals the show. He doesn’t however. Murray has always been one to cast the spotlight on others, and in doing so, rather than pushing attention away from himself, he instead is pushed to raise his game even further, and here, surrounded by guest players, and thus given less spotlight time, he goes all out.
Where Porter’s rich soulful vocal could easily dominate so much of the playing time here, Murray’s warm rounded tone offers just as much soul and pure musical emotion, and on the excellent ‘Stressology’ he displays some light yet dazzlingly fast runs and even some classics Ayler-esque cries.
It’s not a classic, but ‘Be My Monster Love’ is a record with some great moments. Perhaps too varied for some, it does show Murray yet again trying something new, and doing it in his own unique way. The pieces themselves are some of his best, and the choice of singers is inspired (even if one or two of the songs lyrics can occasionally be a little weak). Stellar band, great guests, superb vocals, Murray’s signature soulful yet free sax playing – what’s not to love?