The Jazz Report
JR, Summer 1996
Mike Murley is one of the most dazzling young tenor saxophonist-composers in Canada. He brings a wealth of experience and remarkable sensitivity to each recorded project.
Running mates, pianist Dave Restivo, drummer Ted Warren, bassist Jim Vivian and trumpeter John MacLeod, augment Murley’s compositions with a clear instinct for proportion. All contribute First-rate solos, making Conversation Piece a compelling body of music.
Words of Music
The conversations of the album title are musical and refer to the studio chemistry between players on this excellent set from Mike Murley, one of Toronto’s busiest sax specialists. The gentle swing of Murley’s 11 minute “George Is Gone” gives everyone-drummer Ted Warren, pianist Dave Restivo, bassist Jim Vivian and trumpet player John MacLeod-lots of room to stretch out. The title track finds the group-Restivo and Vivian in particular-running a spry relay to the finish. Marvelous stuff.
The Globe and Mail
Mark Miller, 20 April 1996
The mellowing of Mike Murley continues. On the basis of Conversation Piece, the Toronto saxophonist’s fifth album to date, you’d never guess that he was once a founding member of the Shuffle Demons, a band whose audacity was (and still is) equaled only by its, wardrobe. Murley, working in civvies since 1989, has become a remarkably suave and sophisticated tenorman; just listen to his melting version of Touch Her Soft Lips and Part. His more boisterous nature is apparent here at length only on I’ve Got You Under My Skin (in which he’s openly evoking one of his formative influences, Sonny Rollins) and his own L’Homard bleu. This might all be rather alarming – young musician (34) grows old before his time – if Murley hadn’t in fact evolved into such a class act, and found a band to match in Dave Restivo (piano), Jim Vivian (bass), Ted Warren (drums) and part-timer John MacLeod (flugel-horn). His music is still contemporary, in a stylistically non-specific way, but its esthetic is increasingly – and gorgeously – mainstream.
The Toronto Star
Geoff Chapman, 27 April 1996
Tenorman Murley always raises the level of the game around him, effortlessly innovative, polished and demonstrating technical skill you take for granted. With regular cohorts John MacLeod, Dave Restivo, Jim Vivian and Ted Warren, he works magic on straight-ahead burners like “L’homard Bleu,” the loping grooves of “George Is Gone” (which laments the passing of George’s Spaghetti House) and the whirling contours of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and the urgent title tune.
Uptempo jaunts suit the group, but so do unusual ballads such as “Touch Her Soft Lips And Part” by classicist William Walton and Thelonious Monk’s “Green Chimneys,” on which the boss’s soprano sizzles. MacLeod, too, is in good form, buzzing over a constantly shifting rhythmic pulse.