Dee Dee McNeil, Musical Memoirs
PHIL SCHURGER – “THE WATERS ABOVE” Ears&eyes Records
Phil Schurger, guitar; Greg Ward, alto saxophone; Jeff Greene, bass; Clif Wallace, drums.
According to the liner notes, this CD’s title, “The Water’s Above” references a connection between the higher self and the lower self. This is one of the goals of the meditation process. The titles of the original compositions herein seem to explain the artist, Phil Schurger’s basic concept for this album.
“Scorpio” opens the CD. It is an astrological sign, the eighth of twelve zodiac references. Its element is water and it’s ruled by the mysterious planet Pluto. Scorpio signifies secrecy and loyalty. Those born under the sign of Scorpio can also be very controlling and charismatic. Phil Schurger’s composition spins around melodically, like a planet twisting in space. Greg Ward interprets the melody on his alto saxophone, while the composer strums his guitar in the background. The second tune, “Anikulapo” is taken from the Yorubic religion and means ‘one who carries death in his pouch.’ It generally refers to a man. This title resonated with Schurger because of his experience with death early in his life. He also is a fan of Nigerian artist, multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of the popular Afrobeat music, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who died Aug 2, 1997. Kuti is legendary in Africa and worldwide as a superstar musician with great charisma.
“I had several brushes with death …As a result of this, I began to look at the concept of death as a driving force for living life with focus and intention, recognizing that time is our only currency in this physical world. These experiences defined my pursuit of both music and meditation. Music is an offering for the betterment of our collective community through an ongoing dialogue amongst generations of musicians and meditation is quite the same,” said Phil Schurger in his liner notes.
Schurger’s band is Chicago-based. They have a tight, cohesive sound, as though they have been working together for many seasons. All the compositions they interpret are composed by the artist. The Yorubic influence returns on the tune, “Yoruba” and is written by Schurger as a nod to some African-American music mentors like Milton Cardona, who introduced him to Cuban Santero music and how rhythms become a ritual language. It’s a nod to Michael Patterson, a person who studied Qabalah and West-African religions, along with a Panamanian Rabbi and that type of cultural music. Together, with Jeff Greene on bass and Clif Wallace on drums, Phil Schurger lays down a tight rhythm section that explores his concepts and compositions in a very modern jazz way. You will find this “Yoruba” composition showcasing freedom and exploration of Schurger’s chordal changes by his individual players. Greg Ward is molten on saxophone. Jeff Greene grandly walks his bass, while Clif Wallace takes a thunderous drum solo. Finally, Phil Schurger steps out front like a sunbeam, hot and determined. From that point forward, the music is avant-garde and modernistic. He closes this album with a tune called, “Nogah” that translates in Hebrew to ‘brightness’. It was also the name of a son of King David in the Old Testament. Schurger offers us a musical journey full of mystery, double entendre and world music improvisation.