The European culture channel ARTE has recently dedicated a number of segments to the American saxophonist David Murray, one of the most interesting and spectacular artists of this instrument today. The cycle started with the documentary David Murray: I’m a jazzman written by Jacques Denis and Jacques Goldstein, and directed by Goldstein. It continued with two concerts of Murray recorded in the recent years – the first with Cassandra Wilson and  the Black Saint Quartet at the Jazz a Vienne Festival and the second with the Gwo-Ka Masters group of percussionists from Guadeloupe.

(video source zhanges5)

Goldstein’s film is based on an extended interview-confession with the artist. It is of course by listening to the music that we do understand best a musician. Yet I wish we can hear more such testimonies from artists speaking about their lives, their influences, and the way they relate to their art. Listening to Murray we have the opportunity to know the man and the biography and understand better where his music is coming from. We meet a man who is sincere and true in what he does, who explores not only musical territories but also his own self. We meet an artist who tries to make music that is representative to his times and reflects the influences of the world around as well as his personal background.

(video source shankiniteasy)

Born in Auckland California, Murray was influenced by a combination of tradition and social revolution. He attended church, and a precious film fragment from his personal archives shows him accompanying a group of women singing gospels in church, but at the same time his father was close to the Black Panthers movement and their protest ideas. When he took the trip in New York, mandatory to almost any American jazz artist, it was at the time of the pick of the Loft Jazz trend, and his principal influences became Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler. He borrowed the style of the later, and the long circular breathing phrases became a print of his own personal style. After more than two decades of activity in New York, Murray took a trip to Europe about which he speaks largely in the film. It is here that he has the time to reflect on his own origins and discovers the need to go back to the roots of the African music. The story of his meeting with the work and biography of the Russian poet Pushkin who also had African ascendancy in his blood is interesting by itself, as is the music he composed on this occasion.

Best words about David Murray in this documentary are being said by jazz journalist Stanley Crouch. He describes Murray as one of these artists who are capable to combine in their music the flame of passion of the primitives with the relaxation of the sophisticated instrumentalists who master their means. The documentary is an open invitation to cross the gate of knowing better the man and his art.