There was nothing but standing room--and precious little of that--at d.c. space Saturday night when tenor saxophonist David Murray strode onstage. Murray, best known for his work with the illustrious World Saxophone Quartet, once again found himself in the best of company. Joining him was an exceptional trio of jazz veterans: pianist John Hicks, bassist Art Davis and drummer Ed Blackwell.
The opening set was rich and varied, bouncing between an unbridled joyfulness and an earthy romanticism. Particularly striking were a couple of contrasting ballads. "Off Season," brisk and breezy, introduced Murray's muscular tone and the understated elegance of Davis' playing, while the darkly romantic "Patricia" was richly enhanced by Murray's sensitive phrasing, Hicks' orchestral colors and Blackwell's mallets and brushes.
In a more exuberant vein, "Flowers for Albert" (a tribute to Albert Ayler, one of Murray's principal influences) was both volatile and celebratory, ripe with a Caribbean flavor and as much a sampling of Murray's resourcefulness and stamina as anything the set had to offer.
All the tunes, including the insinuating blues that concluded the performance, were conventionally framed, with the spotlight moving from one musician to another. But the solos seemed particularly inspired and colorful and, above all else, sharply attuned to the manner in which Murray had originally established the melody and mood of each piece.