Francesca
Release Date: May 17, 2024
Label: Intakt Records

 Francesca re-introduces audiences to David Murray's unmatched compositional prowess and muscular sound, this time in the company of his boundless quartet comprising Marta Sanchez on piano, Luke Stewart on bass, and Russell Carter on drums. 

With a discography boasting over a hundred records, Murray's command of the studio is as remarkable as his dexterity on the stage. With every melodic refrain, Murray imbues a language that has been shaped and refined over the course of a 50+ year career performing with a diverse array of icons ranging from Elvin Jones to the Grateful Dead. His musical journey has been a tapestry woven with threads of experience and innovation, resulting in a unique sound that is instantly recognizable.

Francesca is a testament to Murray's endless creativity, showcasing his ability to seamlessly blend diverse musical styles. Recorded at Hardstudios in Winterthur, Switzerland, following a triumphant European tour, the album is a reflection of the quartet's profound camaraderie and their dedication to exploring each composition with depth and nuance.

Murray's masterful quartet was formed several years ago after the saxophonist decided that he needed a fuller group with a piano to help him fulfill his compositional aims, and powerful enough rhythmically to inspire him to play something new and fresh. Murray heard a synergy of sound in these artists playing and assembled this cohesive unit.

What’s clear from these sessions is Murray’s keen commitment to mentoring a new generation. Stewart lauds the elder statesman’s natural way of imparting “tried and true methods within the tradition” to foster “subversive originality.” Says Sánchez, “David’s good at bringing out the best in people,” a sentiment Carter echoes: “he’s not the type of leader who’s gonna tell people, o.k., you’ve got to play this, this and this. […] He gives you a certain amount of freedom.” Yet the music is so together, so cohesive, continues Carter, that “it almost plays itself.”

Pianist Marta Sanchez's contribution to Francesca is particularly notable, as Murray himself attests, "Marta Sanchez exemplifies an international flair of a pianist that is well-schooled in Classical music with a subtle approach to jazz, having studied the greats like Randy Weston, Fats Waller, James P. Jonson, Cecil Taylor and John Hicks. She is very sensitive and explosive." Bassist Luke Stewart's mastery of the bass is another highlight of "Francesca," as Murray remarks, "His bow articulation is excellently suited to whatever I demand and plus he swings my band. Out of the tradition of Jimmy Garrison and Fred Hopkins, he is the next cat on this instrument for this era of Jazz." Drummer Russell Carter's precise and powerful performance on Francesca further enhances the album's dynamic range, as Murray remarks, "To have a drummer as precise and powerful as Russell is rare. His sensibilities are endless, and he really listens and responds effortlessly and tastefully. A drummer's drummer."

Murray, wielding his tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, guides the ensemble through a musical journey that transcends traditional genre. From soul-stirring ballads to exhilarating improvisations, each track on Francesca challenges the meaning of jazz in 2024 with a unique and exciting blend of innovation and tradition.

The album's title track, "Francesca," paints in waltz time a powerful, loving portrait of someone whose creativity, laughter, and daily presence at home and on the road have been vital to Murray, the designer Dr. Francesca Cinelli-Murray. Other compositions, such as "Ninno" and "Shenzhen," offer poignant reflections and evoke vivid imagery of both Murray and Francesca’s rich experiences through Murray's evocative melodies. 

Come and Go” is a brash tenor workout in a cut 5/4 time followed by an up-tempo performance of Murray’s “Am Gone Get Some” that sets Sánchez and Murray swinging and features Carter’s deft sticking after trading fours. Taken on bass clarinet, the gorgeous “Richard’s Tune” is Don Pullen’s seventies-era homage to A.A.C.M. founder Muhal Richard Abrams. Anchored by Stewart’s fleet bass lines and Sánchez’s floating chords, “Free Mingus” shows the appreciation a father holds for the musically gifted son he’s watched mature. Closing out the set is “Cycles and Seasons”, which moves from jaunty 7/4 to swaggering 4/4, a celebration of change.

With Francesca, David Murray invites listeners to experience the "sound of surprise," a captivating fusion of musical expression that defies convention. From introspective melodies to exhilarating rhythms, the album promises to captivate listeners worldwide.

STEPHEN GRAHAM
MARL BANK
"Murray's art celebrates the magic of the hook, the deep groove." Check out the full review here.

FILIPE FREITAS
JAZZ TRAIL
"Maintaining a straightforward 3/4 time signature, the tune, harmonically transparent, never loses composure even when Murray gets out of orbit with his improvisational extravagance and fervency." Check out the full review here.