Tenor saxophonist, bass clarinetist and jazz giant David Murray, an amazingly prolific recording artist, boasts his own rich sound and keeps things popping with his constantly fresh outlook. Murray, who put out his first release, Flowers for Albert, in 1976, describes his latest album, Blues for Memo, as different than any one he’s ever released. “Aren’t they all?” “Well, that’s what I’m going for,” he exclaims with a laugh.
New Orleans gets to experience Murray’s magic when he makes a too rare appearance in the city to perform at Snug Harbor on Thursday, April 26.
The Wednesday evening before, the blazing musician and composer will be blowing with students from the University of New Orleans jazz department as part of the popular Jazz at the Sandbar series.
Have you been involved with many educational programs?
I do work with students all the time. I have levels to do different things in my music. There’s a professional level, a college level, a high school level and a junior high school level. I just keep reaching in my bag and I’m subject to pull out something that they’ve got to be able to play. And I’m not judging. I would rather have them play something very simple and play it well than to play something that is too out of their range. It’s better to get a groove on something simple and have a good time with it too.
Do you know that Herlin Riley will be at the drums at the Snug gig?
That’s great. He’s one of the world’s finest drummers—he’s world-class, for sure. My model for playing polyrhythms is Ed Blackwell. Herlin’s filled up with all that Blackwell stuff. Whenever you can play with a drummer like that you’re at a distinct advantage. He can sound like a whole village playing. He covers it all.
A young bassist, Amina Scott, and pianist Larry Sieberth are on the date. Are you comfortable working with musicians you’ve never performed with?
If she [Amina] plays with Herlin and Nicholas Payton, she’s got great credentials—she’s in good company. I’ll be glad to play with her.
Every musician who comes out of New Orleans and has come in my direction has always been an accomplished musician. I haven’t had a bad one yet. The people get a feeling for my music. Kidd Jordan schooled them all well and Alvin Batiste and everybody else down there has done a fine job.
So what kind of material will you present at the gig?
I’m going to send the musicians the charts for ‘Cycles and Seasons,’ and ‘Music of the Mind’ from the new album. We could play standards too. I always play a couple of ballads.
Besides playing, what else do you look forward to in New Orleans?
The food, point me to the food. I’ve been to all the old traditional places, so I’ll take something new. I just like food. Of course, I like gumbo. Everybody likes gumbo.
THURSDAY, APRIL 26—SNUG HARBOR