Jazz CD Reviews

Murley/Bickert/Wallace – Test Of Time – Cornerstone Records

A musical trio of impeccable taste and swing.

Published on December 18, 2012

Murley/Bickert/Wallace – Test Of Time – Cornerstone Records

Murley/Bickert/Wallace – Test Of Time – Cornerstone Records CRST 140, 58:33 ****:

(Mike Murley – tenor saxophone; Ed Bickert – guitar; Steve Wallace – bass)

The musicians featured on this recent release of material originally recorded in Toronto in 1999, are all standouts in the Canadian jazz scene but are probably less well known south of the 49th parallel. That’s too bad, because they are musicians of impeccable taste and swing and Test Of Time certainly lives up to its billing.

The nine tracks in this session are drawn for the most part from the standard American songbook, with a couple of Murley originals thrown in for good measure. Although the group is essentially an equal musical partnership, it is Mike Murley’s tenor saxophone that is the group’s leading voice as he is an incisive and inquisitive improviser. After a rather oblique opening to “I Should Care” Murley takes flight offering a solo of fluid introspection, followed by guitarist Ed Bickert’s quicksilver runs, and then a deep-toned effort by bassist Steve Wallace. “Test Of Time” swings along with an unfussy solo from Murley and an abstract interlude from Bickert with Wallace’s judicious bass filling in the holes.

Until his retirement from playing professionally in 2001, guitarist Ed Bickert was a fixture on the Toronto jazz scene and rarely strayed from his roots. Although in the mid 1970s, when he recorded and performed with Paul Desmond, he did gain some much-deserved recognition in the U.S.. With his serenely imaginative boppish style, he leads the group into a lovely rendition of “I Wish I Knew” with Murley delivering a Coltranesque solo.

Bassist Steve Wallace might be the most travelled member of this trio as he toured with The Woody Herman All -Stars, The Oscar Peterson Trio, and Rob Mc Connell‘s Boss Brass (both Murley and Bickert were also members of this aggregation at one time). With his big swinging tone, he more than just a timekeeper, but deft improviser providing color and texture to the band. On Murley’s original composition “Stanstill” the interplay between the players is crisp, but the bass work by Wallace holds the tune together. The final composition is a re-imagining of that old standard “Golden Earrings,” which provides each one of the band members a chance to show their exploratory tastes in an understated kind of cool.

This trio produced one other recording entitled Live At The Senator and in 2002 it won a Juno Award for the Best Jazz Recording in Canada. This effort is certainly worthy of similar consideration for 2013.

TrackList: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered; I Should Care; Test Of Time; I Wish I Knew; You For Me; Stanstill; East Of The Sun; You Are Too Beautiful; Golden Earrings

—Pierre Giroux




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