This past weekend, in conjunction with the two-day jazz symposium at Hopkins, An Die Musik LIVE! presented two jazz luminaries on Saturday night who were pivotal to the free jazz scene in France at the turn of the 1970s.
The function marked the 50th anniversary of a key cultural movement in the history of improvised and cultural music, which An Die Musik LIVE! has promoted frequently.
This event, titled “Partnering For Paris/Algiers 1969: Declarations of Freedom by the Black American Avant Garde,” presented warm, heartfelt and engaged performances.
The three monumental musicians performing were Dave Burrell, Jacques Coursil and David Murray, who played piano, trumpet and both saxophone and bass clarinet respectively.
Organized by the Centre Louis Marin at Hopkins and overseen by Professor Derek Schilling, chair of the German and Romance Languages and Literatures department, this performance moved both first-time listeners as well as returning audience members.
The event started off on a fantastic and musically ingenious foot with Burrell, a 2018 Vision Festival honoree, as he showed off his improvisation skills on the piano for nearly a full hour. He showed off his music theory knowledge through deep complex motifs and rhythms.
His performance were stunning and oftentimes took me by surprise. One moment, the melody would be warm and delectable, and the next moment would be full of staccato strokes and jarring harmonic intervals. His passion and intense focus throughout the piece made time fly by rather quickly, and his dexterity with the keys made his music just that much more enticing.
Besides being an acclaimed artist, Burrell is also a civil rights activist. His collaborations with Marion Brown early in his career led him to be featured on Brown’s albums Three for Shepp and Juba-Lee. He also participated in the 1969 Pan-African Cultural Festival and recorded his powerful large-ensemble album Echo shortly afterwards.
In 2018, Burrell was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at Vision Festival 23. The most notable turn in his career took place in the 1990s, when he partnered with Murray.
Burrell’s passion for music and civil rights advocacy has earned him respect from the Baltimore community. Even from my seat among the audience members, I could feel and see the weight of his impact on the attendees. If anything, it felt as if each individual audience member was knit together and became one.
After his solo performance on the piano, Burrell performed in a duo with trumpet player Coursil.
Witnessing such high levels of musicianship was truly rewarding. In the classical world, chamber music is difficult enough, but for two people to improvise jazz with such relaxed artistry and perfected deliverance was a whole new level on its own.
Coursil, a collaborator with drummer Sunny Murray and tenorman Frank Wright in the 1960s, perfected his craft in New York and partook in Bill Dixon’s orchestra, where he continued to further find his sound. His original compositions are well served by American expatriates such as Arthur Jones, Anthony Braxton and Burton Greene.
Last but not least, the critically acclaimed David Murray topped off the night with his inborn musical talents for the tenor saxophone and bass clarinet.
Having arrived at the loft scene of New York in the 1970s, Murray was commended for having a vast and complex range of knowledge in harmonic understanding as well as performing with bountiful energy.
According to the program, he also participated in notably big bands such as the World Saxophone Quartet and Murray’s Octet, both of which have been documented by the Italian Black Saint label. It was a great privilege and honor to have seen and listened to him live in such a closed and intimate space.
Personally, I found this event to be very enlightening. As a violinist myself, I was able to recognize and appreciate the true authenticity and eccentricity of the music that night; it was like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Admittedly, because the pieces were lengthy and it was late, I had to be patient, open and devoted to listening and interpreting the music on my own.
There were a lot of beautiful things happening that I wish I could’ve captured on video. I would definitely recommend an event like this to those who have a trained — or even just a fine — ear for eccentric and spontaneous music.
In other words, if you enjoy listening to long hours of sporadic, melodically dissonant and nearly R&B-style jazz, then this would have been the place to be.
Correction: The article covered the performances of three artists who performed at the concert. However, the entire concert featured not only Dave Burrell, Jacques Coursil and David Murray, but also Archie Shepp and Grachan Moncur III.
The News-Letter regrets this error.