The Decameron, a book by the 14th-century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio is structured as a frame story containing 100 tales told by a group of seven young women and three young men; they shelter in a secluded villa just outside Florence in order to escape the Black Death, which was afflicting the city. Boccaccio probably conceived of the Decameron after the epidemic of 1348, and completed it by 1353. It is considered a masterpiece of classical early Italian prose, as well as of the humanity.
Centuries later the stage is set in South Europe in 2021 and the name of the pandemic is Covid-19.
David Murray’s recently issued album via Intakt Records, Seriana Promethea, recorded under extraordinary conditions of pandemic has a similar character with the Decameron. At this time the stories are told musically by three of the prominent storytellers of the day.
Seriana Promethea can readily be regarded among the ones that perfectly represents the mood of the catastrophic times, just as the decameron represents that of the age of plague in medieval times.
It is unquestioned that David Murray, whom I can’t help thinking he is nobody but a surviving artist from renaissance age, “can play every note at the moment he hears”. His playing is passionate, deep, dark, wild, viscous, heavy… just to name a few adjactives among countless words that fit him.
You can hear Albert Ayler, Sonny Rollins, Don Byas, Ben Webster, John Coltrane and many others’ voices in Murray’s distilled expression, sometimes in a single performance. Not only he summarizes but creates and represents “the future rooted in the past”. Murray can still sound more contemporary than any musician, even when playing within the tradition and makes inside/outside classification meaningless. In deed, it is meaningless.
Bradley Christopher Jones personifes revolutionary approach to bass playing in our times. In his hands, electric or acoustic, bass is complete instrument of making music, instead of sealing time, by the way, at which he is good at it too. His résumé include 10 albums in The Jazz Passengers, and accompaniment for a long list of free-minded musicians such as, Elvin Jones, Muhal Richard Abrams, Marc Ribot, Dave Douglas, Misha Mengelberg and others. He has led the groups AKA Alias, the Brad Jones Quartet and Avant Lounge.
Hamid Drake! In the strictest sense of the word he is the one of the most prolific percussionists, very much comfortable in every genre. Although his name is generally associated with avant-garde jazz and improvised music, you can surprise to hear how he can dominate post-rock or reggae or mainstream jazz stage. He is so much fearless that he puts every note he plays right in front of you. Virtually he played in the last 45 years with everybody such as Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders, Yusef Lateef, Fred Anderson, Archie Shepp, David Murray, Reggie Workman and all members of AACM etc. The albums from his partnership with bass legend William Parker can fill the shelves.
David Murray’s Brave New World Trio came into existance in late 2020 during the times the virus hit the world hardest. Upon a call from his Milan-based agent, Murray flew to Europe for few gigs in Spain. Hamid Drake was in Milan too and available for the dates. Brad Jones, then living near Venice completed the trio.
It is safe estimate that the name of the trio gets its inspiration from Brave New World, a dystopian social science fiction novel by English author Aldous Huxley. Not only they were brave enough to blend into the crowd, but the musical vision they created was brave and new.
After the trio’s perfect harmony was revealed at the concerts, they reunited to give concerts in Europe in 2021. As Murray puts, jazz-during-COVID ambassadors entered the studio in Zurich and only in 1 day, they recorded 8 compositions of which 7 were penned by Murray himself.
The results were just wonderful.
To put it right, the essence of the recording seems to be having audience feel cool and dance. During the days of quarantine, it was not possible not to feel depressed and worried. Joy was kind of postponed to better times. Knowing that nothing lasts forever, David Murray and the trio must have liked to light the darkness with good vibrations. They absolutely succeeded to deliver the message with every song executed. The performances invite listeners to snap fingers, to clap hands and even to dance.
Michael Brandli, recording engineer of the session, deserves full credit for the perfect recording and sonic balance that makes listener to hear all instruments in all their glory.
The opener is pure funk with Murray’s bass clarinet that sings a la Dolphy over Hamid Drake’s mesmerising rhytmic pattern and Brad Jones’ looping bass line. Seriana Promethea sets the mood.
If You Want Me to Stay, 1972’s hit song by Sly and the Family Stone is gorgeously executed by the trio. Believe me, Drake’s variations can block your attention so that you can not hear the others.
Rainbows for Julia, Murray’s dedication to his daughter-in-law, offers folk-like chantable melody. While Switchin’ in the Kitchen reflects Murray’s amusing side with hinting some Sonny Rollins, Anita Et Annita invites listener to rumba and swing. Am Gone Get Some close the record with another fabulous solo by Murray, magnificient walking of Jones, attacking beats by Drake and able solos by both.
For those who regards that more than 200 albums released under his own name is not enough, Seriana Promethea is well addition to his discography. For a newcomer, this is a perfect entry to David Murray’s world of wonders.
Entirely Seriana Promethea is just pure pleasure and arguably the best of his last decade.
It wouldn’t be spoiled to wish for this amazing trio to get together often, to tour more and come to our country, would it?