Monday, April 01, 2019

NZ Jazz: Murray McNabb - Song for the Dream Weaver

Murray McNabb: Song for the Dream Weaver (Mod X Music)
McNabb (p) Ron McClure (b) Adam Nussbaum (d) 1990

On the recordings I've heard so far (Space Case, Dr Tree), McNabb has been largely in the background - aside from his contributions as a composer and arranger - so I was interested to hear in him in the foreground as a soloist and leader.

This is the first time since the series started that I've hung with an album that didn't spike my interest from the start or failed to grow on me much across the month. It's not as if I have given it a single spin, decided it wasn't for me and shelved it. Something about the album made me want to keep going (there have been others that didn't survive the first day or two... but I may return to them another time). As with all the albums in this series, it had multiple listens (most days I've listened to all or most of the album), in different settings (home, car, morning, night, day, headphones, stereo) - but something is missing and I can't put my finger on it.
New Zealand Jazz Murray McNabb

I don't really like making comparisons, but this month I've been listening to quite a bit of Paul Bley and Lennie Tristano (two of my favourite pianists) and McNabb just doesn't grab me like they do. It just doesn't hit that mystical spot, and in fact, seems a bit pedestrian in comparison. I think it might be a rhythm thing as I get the feeling that most of the energy is being generated by the rhythm section. The drums came to the fore as the piano alone didn't really strike me. While I've heard a bit of Adam Nassbaum, this is by far the most I've concentrated on his work. He adds plenty of color, energy, and swing. 

Overall, McNabb's playing is quite introverted, and that's not a bad thing in itself as the “Hey, look at me... look at what I can do” style is a bit overdone in jazz. It seems crazy, as I have other albums that are equally (or more) introverted that don't seem to bother me. Perhaps it's not an introverted quality, maybe it's that missing mystical quality I can't put my finger on – intensity of purpose?. Or it could just be the state of mind I've been in this month. 

I did go back to the Space Case recordings to check out a couple of tunes that reappear here - “Recurring Dream” and “Dark Windows” (known as “Number Two” during the Space Case days). The jury is still out as to which I preferred, the horns add something on Space Case but I like the intimacy of trio.

One of the big takeaways from this month is thinking about what quality(ies) a particular piece of music (or artist) has that grabs you. When that element(s) is missing, do you know it straight away? If you hang in there, does that element or another one in it's place reveal itself to you? I can't say that hanging with Song For The Dream Weaver during March has helped the album grow on me all that much. Yet strangely, it hasn't put me off McNabb either. I still have another trio album of his to listen to and I'm even more curious to hear his later work – although I'm sure I'll come with a bit of baggage when I listen to those discs.

So it has been bit of an odd month and I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into something else. Stay tuned for more (but probably not from McNabb for a little while at least).

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