Vol 11#7, Apr 01-May07'06, Jazz and Improvised)

Mnemosyne's March, Murley Braid Quartet (Cornerstone CRST CD128)


By Ted O'Reilly, The Whole Note
I had only a vague thought of what it meant, so I had to look it up. Now, I’ll save you the trouble: Mnemosyne  (ni-MOSS-in-knee) is a Greek goddess, the mother of the muses.

This new release, co-led by reedman Mike Murley and pianist David Braid, features mostly original compositions. They have called on Euterpe and Terpischore, it would seem, for the music is lyrical and dancing. And whoever the Muse of Jazz is, has contributed ‘swinging’, or perhaps that’s the work of bassist Jim Vivian and drummer Ian Froman.

The first three tunes are by Braid, surely the most interesting young pianist in jazz. Say a Silent Prayer  moves in and out of waltz time to lead us into the set (recorded live at Toronto’s Montreal Bistro & Jazz Club). It’s followed by the more driving Dream Recording  and then the title tune, which is most certainly not a march. Vivian’s out-of-tune arco bass in the intro is quickly forgotten when Murley’s soprano sax weaves lovely musing (dare I say) melody. Then Vivian’s plucked solo deepens the ethereally optimistic feeling.

Mike Murley, half a generation older than Braid, brings a different angle to his compositions. It’s lighter, more humorous, and often standards-based, as on Sheep Walking  (from You -- or ‘ewe’ - Stepped Out of a DreamCascade  has some of the qualities of John Coltrane, circa early ‘60s, unrolling out of tempo for its entire quarter-hour. Vivian’s bass solo leads into the theme of the next tune, Rundle  Ian Froman’s vigorous drumming à la Elvin Jones is appropriate here.

Trane made a defining version of Harren Warren’s mid-’40s song I Wish I Knew   yet Murley puts his own stamp on it, as he always does.

A minor cavil is with the live recording: it rarely seems live, as reaction is only heard in quickly-faded applause at the end of tracks, and ‘way off mic at that. I’ve heard this band, and it’s more exciting than it seems here. The producers should have used the audience to enhance the home-listening experience.