Day and Night

Ottawa Citizen – Thriving on a Riff
Peter Hum, April 2008

Ottawa jazz fans need little introduction to Mike Murley. The Nova Scotia-born, Toronto-based saxophonist frequently performs here, during the Ottawa International Jazz Festival and on other occasions. In the last few years, Murley has played in town with the fusion group Metalwood, Ottawa bassist John Geggie, guitarist David Occhipinti, and the group he co-leads with pianist David Braid. Thanks to the festival, the Murley-Braid group, enlarged now to include saxophonist Tara Davidson, will play in Confederation Park this summer. Are we oversaturated with the sound of Mike Murley? Definitely not. He’s a frequent winner of National Jazz Awards for his playing and recordings — with good reason.

But Ottawans may know less about Murley’s close tie to saxophonist David Liebman, who plays at Cafe Paradiso tonight. The two share a bond going back 25 years, to when Murley was Liebman’s student. The bond’s been renewed in recent years, with the two saxophonists fronting a quartet (with bassist Jim Vivian, third from left below, and Ottawa-raised drummer Ian Froman…continued
Budd Kopman 17 August 2008

Day and Night is a smoking live set featuring saxophonists David Liebman and Mike Murley, supported by bassist Jim Vivian and drummer Ian Froman, with pianist Jeff Johnston guesting on the fiery closer, John Coltrane’s “India.” Recorded for CBC Radio [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] during the 2003 Atlantic Jazz Festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia, it was released to celebrate the group’s reunion at the Rex Jazz Bar in Toronto, where they first met the same year.

The high level of group synchronicity is quite natural since Murley studied with Liebman in the 1980s and counts him as a major influence. Furthermore, Murley, along with Vivian, Froman and Johnston, has influenced the next generation of younger Canadian musicians including pianist David Braid, with whom he plays regularly.

The set has that special something—a palpable excitement to which the audience responds clearly and the magical “without-a-net” feeling, created by the players feeding off each others’ energy.

As the rhythm section and constant voice below the soloists, Vivian and Froman are razor sharp, never letting up for a second. Responding instantly both to each other and to what is happening in front of them, they provide a constant push with continuous variations that is the hallmark of jazz rhythm. That which is subordinated when supporting the action bursts onto the surface when they get the chance to solo.

Naturally, most of the attention goes to front line of Liebman and Murley. Liebman was originally inspired to pursue a jazz career by John Coltrane and the influence is clear, but also present is that of pianist Lennie Tristano, with whom he studied. His playing paradoxically combines the abandon of the former with the control of the latter, producing highly emotional lines that still possess an intellectual structure. Murley’s connection to Liebman is also very evident, but so is his own voice. Amongst the most telling moments is when the two play against each other, sometimes in harmony, elsewhere as commentary.

The set flies by starting with Liebman’s title tune, which begins with a unison thematic declamation in a light rhythm that progressively develops and builds in intensity. Murley’s “That’s What You Want” smolders and simmers to a low modal boil. While they trade soprano and tenor saxophones on those first two tunes, Tadd Dameron’s delightful “Gnid” features dual tenor saxophones, and is given a perfect, laid back, cool and buttery smooth groove.

Before Johnston joins the group for a very intense, eighteen-minute version of the Coltrane classic, “India,” Liebman speaks about his history and that of the players on the stage, making the point about students becoming peers and the joy of making music together.

Day and Night is what jazz is all about—players who, while working within a personal style, always extend themselves and never stand still, bringing the audience along with them for the ride.

Coda Magazine
Geoff Chapman, March/April 2008

Horning into consideration are two from saxophone favourite Mike Murley, a Toronto-based jazz icon for the past quarter century: Day And Night (Cornerstone) and DMBQ Live (Indie). On the first, Murley is paired with his American mentor Dave Liebman on a bristling live Atlantic Jazz festival concert taped in 2003 at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax. Ignore the slothful release. This blast by players equally trenchant on tenor and soprano is meaty stuff. Joined by solid colleagues in Jim Vivian (bass) and Ian Froman (drums), they deliver four extended workouts over 50 minutes of growing intensity. It becomes a hard-charging affair just three minutes in; Liebman’s soprano soaring and swooping against a pressing pulse before switching into raw, churning runs. The fury subsides before Murley responds with earthy ideas aplenty. Such displays of creative, eloquent energy makes for giddy listening, but the pace is slowed for Murley’s “That’s What You Want” with marked emphasis on freewheeling unison lines and rich horn soloing. This is followed by a two-tenor onslaught on Tadd Dameron’s “Gnid.” That is redolent with strength and authority. The session climaxes with a heated examination of Coltrane’s classic “India,” Liebman adding bamboo flute and Montreal pianist Jeff Johnston adding both passion and flashy technique.