Picks and Pans Review: New Life

updated 07/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The David Murray Octet

If one size fit all purposes, saxophonist Murray wouldn't need to lead an octet and a big band in addition to a basic quartet. But, on the basis of Murray's eight albums in the three formats, if one size seems ideal for him, it's the octet. The octet offers most of the rich harmonic and rhythmic possibilities and solo firepower of the big band in a setting that rivals the quartet for intimacy. And as New Life demonstrates, the five-horns-plus-rhythm-section develop a springy muscularity and playfulness of their own. With a new lineup driven by the explosive drumming of Ralph Peterson Junior, the album caroms and careens through four glad-all-over grooves, the title cut serving as a kind of languid promenade before the dashing ender, Blues in the Pocket. Baikida Carroll and Hugh Ragin sizzle on trumpet; on trombone Craig Harris is buttery as well as his usual boisterous self; on tenor sax or bass clarinet, the instantly recognizable Murray is in peak form. The first three octet albums (Ming, Home and Murray's Steps, recorded in 1980, 1981 and 1982) were wide-ranging in mood and more concerned with ensemble color. This one cavorts (it was recorded in 1985; Murray's albums arrive like the light from distant stars, bringing news about the past). Possibly the most consistent of his albums, it's as bracing as ice water on a hot day. (Black Saint/Polygram Special Imports)

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