David Murray’s Black Saint Quartet featuring Cassandra Wilson – Sacred Ground – Justin Time

by | Jul 18, 2007 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

David Murray’s Black Saint Quartet featuring Cassandra Wilson – Sacred Ground – Justin Time JUST 204-2, 1 hour ****:

(David Murray, tenor sax & bass clarinet; Cassandra Wilson, vocals; Lafayette Gilchrist, piano; Ray Drummond, bass; Andrew Cyrille, drums)

Murray has long been on the cutting edge of jazz, incorporating world music, fusion, African, loft jazz and other new paths into his ever-seeking visionary forays.  He’s right at the “out there” limit this old moldy fig is willing to go musically, but even his most avant albums grab me like few other players of his ilk. He was a founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet and for this CD worked with avant-oriented vocalist Cassandra Wilson. Writer Ishmael Reed created lyrics for the opening and closing tracks which are sung by Wilson. This is the first session with Murrary’s quartet since the death of his acclaimed pianist John Hicks.  Gilchrist was an informal student of Hicks and fills his shoes with great honor.

The album as a whole and three tracks in particular were inspired by a  Sundance-selected film titled Banished, and that is the title of the fourth selection, an instrumental with Murray switching to his bass clarinet. The documentary film concerns the banishment of thousands of blacks from Midwest and Southern towns between 1890 and 1930 – a little-known dark spot of “ethnic cleansing” in American history. The opening track and title of the CD, as well as the slow blues Prophet of Doom – the closing track – deal with this subject in their lyrics. The latter posits the Grecian character of Cassandra – who was also a slave – as the vocalist. Believe in Love is an 11-minute emotional improvisation which serves the purpose of the album’s ballad, though it’s far from your usual lyrical ballad and employs a constant tango rhythm. The entire album is another in the growing series of jazz albums during the past year or so which have a strong spiritual, philosophical or protest slant to them rather than just musical entertainment as their reason for being.  And it’s one of the best.

TrackList: Sacred Ground, Transitions, Pierce City, Banished, Believe in Love, Family Reunion, The Prophet of Doom.

 – John Henry

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