Artist: Sunny Murray, John Edwards, Tony Bevan
Album: I Stepped Onto A Bee
Genre: Free Jazz, Avant-Garde Jazz
Label: Foghorn Records
Year Of Release: 2011
Quality: FLAC (tracks)
1 Part I 9:04
2 Part II 7:29
3 Part III 6:16
4 Part IV 5:28
5 Part V 4:16
6 Part VI 9:20
Sunny Murray is part of the bedrock of free jazz. Along with his band mates Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler, he was part of the movement that shook jazz off its traditional hinges, and blew the roof off everyone’s minds and ears. Along the way, Murray pioneered free-style drumming, the time of no-time, and it’s fair to say that the world is a different place because of him.
Now in his midseventies, Murray is still going strong, and I Stepped on a Bee is an altogether excellent CD that finds Murray bursting with power and imagination. Recorded in London in 2010 with Murray’s longstanding European trio, the CD is composed of six pieces, cryptically titled “Parts I through VI.” In fact the entire CD presentation is intriguingly stark: no liners, no photos, and a commanding African mask rendered in black on a light brown background. There are no words to latch on to: the listener is meant to listen.
The trio consists of Murray on drums and voice, Tony Bevan on tenor sax, and John Edwards on double bass. Both Bevan and Edwards are core players on the London jazz scene: Bevan has played with the likes of Derek Bailey, Henry Grimes, and Sonny Simmons, and even once for the Teletubbies (it’s true!). Edwards, who is probably best-known for his work with Evan Parker, was cofounder of the legendary squawk-jazz ensemble the Pointy Birds, and to date has appeared on almost 100 recordings. In short, these two can certainly keep up with the legendary Murray; in fact, they match him step-by-step, and it’s a pleasure to hear such a simpatico group.
The six songs offer a shape-shifting dance, with everyone reaching for the limits of their instruments, and then some. Murray is a powerful player, but he also has an uncanny sensitivity, an ability to play with the greatest gentleness in order to provide support for Bevan and Edwards. Bevan has a rich, lovely tone, and a host of interesting ideas: he conjures up the sparest blips of sound, as well as slices of lovely melody, or lines of screeching searing probing that would make Pharaoh Sanders doff his fez. Edwards offers sonorous and imaginative bass work throughout, and provides a damn fine example of no-time swing. And yes, at the end of “Part I,” Edwards gets a sound from his bass that certainly resembles a buzzing bee. So you do get a bee, but so much else as well.
This is satisfying music: entertaining, stimulating, provocative, thought-provoking, and sometimes flat-out wild. It’s wonderful to hear a major artist like Murray continue to shine, and it’s heartwarming to see him give space to the next generation of musicians as well.
by Florence Wetzel