Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

David Murray: Shakill's Warrior [DIW/Columbia, 1992]
Murray is the most fluent saxophonist this side of Sonny Rollins, a far more expansive leader than King Wynton. His new big-band album serves up plenty of thrills and chills; hell, when he composes a string quartet I'll give it a shot. But I reserve the right to believe that his least pretentious record is his best. Backed by swinging beatmaster Andrew Cyrille on drums and tasty high school bandmate Stanley Franks on guitar, Murray enlists Don Pullen on organ in a knowing encomium to lounge r&b. Though too often the Hammond B-3 is a one-way ticket to Cornytown, Pullen the pianist is capable of clusters as abstract (not to say unlistenable) as Cecil Taylor's, and the tension works perfectly: his harmonic cool keeps the music honest and a little strange without ever stinting on emotion. As for Murray, you know he can blow--hot and hard, warm and soulful, sly and sleazy. He even rollicks through a Rollins-style calypso. The title tune owes Sammy Davis Jr.'s "The Candy Man." And the moody avant-garde move "Black February" swings anyway. A+