Murley, Bickert & Wallace
The Toronto Star
Geoff Chapman, 20 January 2001
Recorded 15 months ago, Mike Murley’s sax work is the glistening glue that keeps this great music on track at the Toronto club, aided by the refined guitar of Ed Bickert and substantial bass of Steve Wallace on six refreshed standards and two Murley originals, “On The Spot” and “Can’t You See.”
With healthy respect for swinging time, swift shifts from melody to note cascades and nuanced accents, tunes are remade with compelling conviction. Murley can caress or strut with raffish gait, Bickert offers strikingly nimble lines and Wallace fortifies the group sound, especially when tempos fizz as on “It’s All Right With Me.” This prodding, exultant music with unflagging long solos never loses impetus as the trio steps lightly but securely through well-chosen material.
This trio of excellent Canadian musicians have been performing together for the last couple of years and are captured in a live performance from the Top of the Senator, one of Toronto’s jazz venues. This session features standards plus a couple of Mike Murley originals. Murley’s sax, which is out in front on most tunes, is definitely from the Lester Young school with a Stan Getz tone. With his handling of such tunes as “I Should Care” it’s obvious that the youngish tenor man has heeded Young’s injunction that to play a song well, you have to know the lyrics.
Murley is joined on this set by two veteran Canadian-based jazz musicians, both well known to jazz fans in the United States. Ed Bickert’s guitar has been on the scene for years with many a fine recording under his belt. Steve Wallace who keeps matters in hand on bass has worked with the likes of Sam Noto and Kirk McDonald.
The album presents a balanced mix of slower paced and up tempo material. On the former, one of the album’s highlights is a fresh and entertaining look at an old saw “Golden Earrings”. The extemporaneous treatment given this tune by first Murley and then Bickert’s clean line guitar, breathe new life into a song that has been moribund for awhile. “It’s all Right with Me” is a good example of an up tempo performance done with verve and taste. The light, delicate tone of Murley’s sax combined with Bickert’s intelligent, lyrical guitar playing will bring back memories for many of those elegant meetings between Paul Desmond and Jim Hall for RCA Victor between 1959 and 1965. Bickert should also feel right at home since he worked with Desmond.
This album makes for nice listening and is recommended. Visit Murley at his web home at www.mikemurley.com.
The Globe and Mail
Stuart Broomer, 7 December 2000
There’s a fairly conventional approach to jazz with this Toronto trio. While several decades separate senior guitarist Ed Bickert and tenor saxophonist Mike Murley, you wouldn’t guess it here, as like minds explore their lyric sides on a collection of standards and two idiomatic originals. Murley adapts to the setting with an airy, Getz-like tone and sibilant runs. His lines are mated perfectly with Bickert’s mellow, luminous guitar sound, the two instruments joining in the air above Steve Wallace’s secure bass. Bickert’s harmonic imagination is at its best here, and his rhythm playing keeps things moving no matter the tempo. Every Time We Say Goodbye was once a vehicle for a titanic John Coltrane cadenza; Murley adds a cadenza to the version here as well, making it a gentler and shorter occasion of his own.