MURRAY MCNABB GROUP : Astral Surfers
By Bruce Morley
Murray McNabb’s trademarks are all on display here: fearless ostinatos that go on for the longest time; unusual instrumental combinations, such as erhu, tabla and dulcimer with funky bass and drums; muscular but deeply thoughtful keyboard solos; African and other rhythmic influences filtered through a jazz consciousness; compositions that are generic and groovy yet intensely personal; and most importantly, a knack for picking the right players, giving them space, and bringing out the best in them. On this album McNabb is aided in this by bassist and co-producer Neil Hannan, another musician adept at helping to get the best out of his colleagues. After an arresting opening to the album from Tanya Li’s erhu, the first track Marco Polo’s Return slides seamlessly into the lengthy Sub-continental, featuring an exciting tabla solo by Basant Madhur. On this track and elsewhere, superb solos are also contributed by altoist Stephen Morton-Jones and guitarist Martin Winch, over Frank Gibson’s nice, tight, in-the-pocket drums. On Badawi Groove McNabb himself plays a storming retro Hammond organ solo that would be right at home on an Al Kooper super session. This album exudes confidence and maturity, a superb example of world jazz.