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At home in Guadeloupe

By David Murray & the Gwo-Ka Masters

Justin Time Records: 2002

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This review first appeared in the Autum 2002 issue of Turbula.

David Murray is possessed of an uncanny knack for making himself at home in just about any musical setting.

In 1999, he teamed up with Fontella Bass to record the full-on gospel service of "Speaking in Tongues." A year before, he had immersed himself in French Caribbean traditions and come up with the self-explanatorily titled "Creole." In 1996, he issued a jazz tribute to the Grateful Dead – with whom he'd once played.

That kind of versatility gets one's attention.

Of course, the danger of that type of stylistic meandering is that one can lose – or fail to develop – one's own voice. But as Murray's latest release shows, even though he's surrounded by the rhythms and musicians of Guadeloupe, that saxophone is clearly Murray's – as it has been on every album he's recorded.

Now, Murray is pretty out there – not everyone will appreciate his often harsh improvisations, his drawing on Ornette Coleman's free jazz theories. But he's no Albert Ayler – Murray is able, always, to reel in his explorations so that the melodies are never overwhelmed, the other musicians never overlooked.

The ambience of this latest effort from Murray is an extension of "Creole" – it is touted in the liner notes as the "next installment of the Creole project." The percussion and rhythm have a heavy Afro-Carib feel to them, and the Gwo-Ka Masters provide the kind of call-and-response vocals that are descended from the African ancestors of so many of Guadeloupe's citizens.

It's a fun, listenable set – another worthwhile effort from Murray.