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Murray hits sweet groove on Afro-jazz combo

Fo Deux Revue
Fo Deux Revue
By David Murray

Justin Time Records: 1997

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This review first appeared in the January 17, 1998 edition of the American Reporter.

Fhere's nothing really new on David Murray's latest release, "Fo Deux Revue." Multicultural musical stews have been tried before (can we say "Graceland"?) and Murray is certainly not the first American jazz artist to try to introduce African themes into his music. Nor, really, is the combo of rap, African and jazz all that new anymore.

What sets this album by the always explorative saxophonist apart from similar efforts is how well it works at finding common ground between culturals and musics, at creating a new groove both entertaining and challenging.

For "Revue," Murray and his quartet recorded in Dakar, Senegal with several dozen West African musicians (including traditional and contemporary). The songs are both Western (by Murray and pianist Robert Irving III) and African, and range in accessibility from the Stevie Wonder-ish dance groove of "One World Family" to the challenging "Evidence" with lyrics and vocals by American poet Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones).

Several tracks fall flat – perhaps the stylistic and cultural differences between the Americans and Africans are too great to overcome, an argument suggested by other attempts at marrying the two traditions.

But where it does work, Murray and Co. hit a groove like that that achieved between Nigerian pop star Fela and jazz/R&B vibraharpist Roy Ayers in 1980. Like Ayers, Murray comes in with no preconceptions about what is "authentic" African music, and so the Senegalese include both traditional musicians and local rappers. And like pop star Paul Simon, Murray is focused on making good music, not recording a documentary.

In that, he largely succeeds.