It was clear a few years back that Toronto saxophonist Mike Murley, now 32, would be one of the key players of his generation in Canada. Nothing that he has done since should change such expectations, not his exemplary 1992 CD Time and Tide, nor this past summer’s release Departure. Indeed over four albums since the late 1980s, he has shown admirable consistency and integrity in his choice of music, musicians (pianist-Dave Restivo, bassist Jim Vivian and drummer Ted Warren here) and general direction, all the while establishing himself as a personable, yet highly expressive saxophonist. Sonny Rollins remains a discernible influence, but Murley’s agile tenor and soprano move freely in and around various contemporary jazz idioms. He has made the four-part, 26-minute Suite Sixties the centrepiece of Departure — if the writing sounds derivative of the decade in question, that’s plainly the point — but also goes gut-bucket with A Blues for Restivo and turns quite elegant with Someone To Watch Over Me.
The Jazz Report
JR, Fall 1994
Mike Murley is a player always at the height of his profession. Departure isn’t really a break with anything, but more a continuation of the growth of one of Canada’s finest tenor saxophonists. The addition of pianist Dave Restivo gives the music the harmonic presence of the great Herbie Hancock units of the ’60s. This is not a sound that’s going to evaporate. Whether it’s Blue Note, Verve or Cornerstone, the legion of young players identify with this era. A lot has to do with the harmonic sophistication Hancock, Shorter and Davis created during this period. Murley’s writing extends beyond this era reaching into the ’90s. The angular thematic melodies work well with the familiar chordal passages. Bassist Jim Vivian and drummer Ted Warren make substantive contributions prodding Murley and Restivo to examine the possibilities further.
The Toronto Star
Geoff Chapman, 9 June 1994
If you’re anxious to get jazzing, there’s no better place than tonight – Saturday, at the Pilot Tavern, where tenor saxist supreme Mike Murley will be releasing his new Departure CD (on Cornerstone) alongside album colleagues Dave Restivo (piano), Jim Vivian (bass) and Ted Warren (drums).
The CD contains four Muriey originals, his imaginative four-parter Suite Sixties that segues from martial strut to spacy reflection to tumbling rhythms and serpentine soprano sax lines and a big Ben Webster-ish turn on “Someone To Watch Over Me.”
Murley’s intensity shines throughout, his distinctive voice nurtured on Sonny Rollins, as he encapsulates the modern tenor sound.
Len Dobbin, 23 June 1994
Great things come from small towns. For example, reedman Murley, born in Windsor, Nova Scotia (population 3,600) was a 1991 Juno winner with the album Two Sides, and he keeps getting better and better. Murley’s latest release, on the new Cornerstone label, features his regular quartet of Dave Restivo on piano, bassist Jim Vivian (who did guitarist Roy Patterson’s McGill Master Recital under the alias “Vivan” last week) and drummer Ted Warren, and was recorded in mid-February of this year. The set consists of Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” plus five Murley originals, including the four-movement “Suite Sixties,” all played with great strength and highlighted by solos of the imaginative variety. You can also hear Murley on Time Warp’s newest, There and Back, on the same label: both come highly recommended.