Mike Murley Trio – Ship Without A Sail – Cornerstone

Mike Murley Trio – Ship Without A  Sail – Cornerstone CRST CD 145, 52:15 ****:

A sprightly and imaginative trio session.

(Mike Murley – tenor saxophone; Reg Schwager – guitar; Steve Wallace – bass)

The Mike Murley Trio is the complete opposite to the title of their most recent release Ship Without A Sail. They are a musical vessel sailing to  a destination with which they are very familiar, thus avoiding the shoals and rocks of uncharted waters. The result is a voyage worth the journey.

The musical interdependence that this group has created in their approach to the material, has resulted in an instrumental harmony that’s evident from the first bars of “In Love In Vain”. Murley’s tenor sax takes command as he runs through the melody in full-throated form. The comping by guitarist Schwager and bassist Wallace push him along in lightly swinging mode. In 1929 Rodgers and Hart wrote “A Ship Without A Sail” for the musical Heads Up. The number was not considered one of this duo’s most popular tunes and is an interesting choice of the band for the title track, which for some unexplained reason they decided to forgo the letter A in the title. Nevertheless their interpretation is singularly agile. Bassist Wallace is given plenty of solo space to delve into his big tone.

Charlie Parker’s “Dexterity” opens with some intricate unison-note playing between Murley and Schwager, which then takes Schwager into a brief solo, before Murley picks up the theme. Wallace comes in for a lengthy exposition of his ingenuity and then the unison playing takes the tune out. A delightful run through of this bop theme. Trombonist Don Sebesky is also a respected composer/arranger and his composition,  You Can’t Go Home Again was the title of a 1977 album by trumpeter Chet Baker. The ballad version of the number offered by Murley and his cohorts is evocative and elegant in the improvisational sections.

“Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West”, a John Lewis composition was featured on his 1956 album titled Grand Encounter which featured tenor saxophonist Bill Perkins plus several other all-star names. Murley’s take on the number is a nicely polished rendition, with guitarist Schwager showing his economical style. The session closes with “Cry Me A River” which was a torch song written by Arthur Hamilton and made famous with a 1955 recording by singer Julie London. Murley and the band eschew that version of the tune and showcase it as an up-tempo swinger with foot-tapping results. This is a sprightly and imaginative trio session .

TrackList: In Love In Vain; Folhas Secas; Ship Without A Sail; Dexterity; You Can’t Go Home Again; Even After; Mean Old Man; Know One; Two Degrees East,Three Degrees West; Cry Me A River

—Pierre Giroux 

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