Jazz CD Reviews
David Murray – David Murray And the Gwo Ka Masters featuring Taj Mahal: The Devil Tried To Kill Me – Justin Time Records
Published on December 10, 2009
David Murray – David Murray And the Gwo Ka Masters featuring Taj Mahal: The Devil Tried To Kill Me – Justin Time Records JUST224-2 – 64:55 ****:
(David Murray, tenor sax & bass clarinet; Taj Mahal, vocals; Sista Kee, vocals & piano; Jaribu Shahid, electric bass; Renzel Merrit, drums; Klod Kiavue, Ka drums, vocal; Francois Ladrezeau, Ka drums, vocal; Rasul Siddik, trumpet; Christian Laviso, guitar; Herve Samb, guitar)
David Murray’s new release David Murray and The Gwo Ka Masters Featuring Taj Mahal: The Devil Tried To Kill Me is a sad album with a joyous and alive sound, making for a very poignant experience. The majority of the tracks – recorded in Guadalupe – are collaborations between Murray and other songwriters and lyricists, but the album still has a cohesion both aesthetically and thematically – exploring themes of loss, pain, and redemption.
Kiama for Obama, the first track, is the only one composed solely by Murray. It features a masterful solo by Murray early on. He doesn’t assault the microphone with his playing, but seems to actually lean away from it, exploring the song’s melody without overpowering it. Rasul Siddik on trumpet and Christian Laviso & Herve Samb on guitar follow his example with restrained solos later in the song.
The first track featuring Taj Mahal, Africa, sets the thematic tone of the record. The song puts forth an interesting premise, with the singer speaking to Africa as a hospice worker, and discussing the different ways in which he would take care of the continent were it his patient. Murray has another great solo on the song, showing off his ability on the bass clarinet, in an arresting solo. His playing is sparse and efficient, and stronger for it.
Next is Southern Skies, featuring Sista Kee in addition to Taj Mahal. This song concerns the Southern Skies’ experiences of deep pain and the fact that it’s still “paying dues”. The band stops playing in a reserved manner on this track, and Murray plays the best solo on the album yet in the song. Laviso and Samb on guitar also deliver splintering hard playing.
The title track, The Devil Tried To Kill Me, features Sista Kee again, telling the story of recovering from an unspecified health crisis, and the feeling of joy upon recovery. She sings about how the orange juice in the hospital “tasted like champagne” and how a busy life filled with cell phones and computer brought on this crisis. Late in the song, the guitarists and Jaribu Shahid on bass have some tremendous interplay.
Congo, the fifth track, is probably the most upbeat song on the album. It offers a chance for both horns players, Saddik and Murray, to showcase their wares, but again Laviso and Samb on guitar steal the show about five minutes in.
Finally, the last track, Canto Oneguine, showcases the band playing with total abandon. Murray leads the way, taking the melody in every possible direction with his solo, brining every possible sound of his instrument.
The album also features shorter, “radio edit” versions of Southern Skies and Africa, which, while still excellent, are ultimately inferior to the full versions.
The Devil Tried To Kill Me is a rare experience, in that it is a showcase for the virtuosity of its players while being a genuinely moving emotional experience, mostly because those very players use their considerable ability to make sure the emotional content of the album hits home.
TrackList: Kiama for Obama, Africa, Southern Skies, The Devil Tried To Kill Me. Congo, Canto Oneguine, Southern Skies (radio edit), Africa (radio edit)
– Ethan Krow