Mike Murley Trio – Looking Back – Cornerstone Records CRST CD 143, 54:47 ***:
(Mike Murley – tenor saxophone; Reg Schwager – guitar; Steve Wallace – bass)
Tenor saxophonist Mike Murley has been an engaging presence on the Toronto and broader Canadian jazz scene for many years, not only leading and playing in his own bands but also part of the now disbanded Rob McConnell Tentet. Guitarist Reg Schwager, although born in The Netherlands, has made his home in Toronto for some time and has gained international recognition playing with the likes of George Shearing, Diana Krall and Junior Mance among others. Bassist Steve Wallace is regarded as one of the finest players Canada has produced and has recorded extensively with Oscar Peterson, Oliver Jones and Woody Herman. Although each has played together over the years, this release Looking Back is the first for the trio.
Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn composed “Isfahan” as part of The Far East Suite and it may have been one of their most beautiful melodies. Murley and company give it the appropriate reverence done in a loping tempo with confident solos from all parties. Another number to which Duke Ellington made a contribution along with George T. Simon and Bobby Troup is “The Feeling Of Jazz” where Murley offers his warm centered tone and Schwager demonstrates his cooly dexterous attack. Alex Wilder was a self-taught composer of both classical music and popular songs of which “I’ll Be Around” was one of his most well-known (along with many others), especially after it was recorded by Frank Sinatra—who was a fan—in 1943. The version offered by the trio is done at a very languid tempo and while clearly strongly felt, may have been more dreary than necessary.
The trio picks up the pace with the Cole Porter tune “So In Love” which was written for the Broadway musical Kiss Me, Kate which in turn was the adaptation of William Shakespeare play The Taming Of The Shrew. The players show that they can combine colour and texture in a contemporary harmonic palette. Herb Ellis, who was the long-time guitarist with The Oscar Peterson Trio, wrote “Detour Ahead” to which the band gives a bluesy reading with bassist Wallace demonstrating his sincere instinct and extensive experience. The closer is “Who Cares” which runs along at a brisk step filled with cheerful swing.
This is a versatile trio with a firm approach to the material.
Track List: Isfahan; Looking Back; The Feeling Of Jazz; I’ll Be Around; So In Love; If You Never Come To Me; I Wonder Who; Detour Ahead; Who Cares