Tuesday, December 13, 2005

David Murray & the Gwo-Ka Masters - 10/12/2005, Brussels

I saw David Murray's Gwo-Ka Masters project a few years ago in Antwerpen and came away somewhat dissappointed, despite the presence of Hamid Drake and the extraordinary charisma of singer/griot Guy Konket. The album of the time, Yonn-Dé, was better. Now I understand that they were in a transitional period between Yonn-Dé's rural atmosphere and the follow-up Gwotet's more driving funk (both albums are excellent). On saturday, both Drake and Konket were absent, but the rest of the band was the same, including the Senegalo-Vietnamese guitarist Hervé Samb, whose sophisticated afro-jazz-with-a-touch-of-Hendrix playing was a consistent highlight, whether he was taking a long unaccompanied intro or laying down chicken scratch funk rhythmic patterns.

The concert started with an overly-dense groove that left little room for dynamics and seemed to force the soloists to operate under their own steam. Progressively, the rhythm opened up. For example, on the third song, drummer J.T. Lewis played a traditional Guadeloupean rhythm led by a dancing hi-hat. Later, the two percussionists/vocalists engaged in a "mouth drum" duet before Murray returned to the stage and played a cheeky, tongue-slapping bass clarinet introduction to an easy-going reggae version of a Lee Morgan ballad. In his solo, the leader equally acknowledged two clarinet traditions: the creole roots of jazz and Eric Dolphy's 60s revitalisation of the instrument. The obligatory encore started with a disappointing tune, but was buoyed by a seamless segue into a Sonny-Rollins-meets-samba moment, thus completing the panorama of Murray's inheritance.

[with thanks to Jazzques]