Friday, March 30, 2012

"Hannibal" Marvin Peterson: Naima, 1978


This album consists of two full side cuts, recorded direct to disc in New York and released on EMI Japan. The A side is an interpretation of John Coltrane's Naima and Duke Ellington's In a Sentimental Mood appears on the back. The B side is played by a quartet; Diedre Murray joins them on cello for Naima. The song opens with bass (Cecil McBee) and cello, both bowed, accompanied by light percussion. Murray and McBee create a stunning dynamic together, taking Naima to a place that I have never heard before in harmony and timbre while masterfully preserving its essence.

Jazz emphasizes the infinite nature of music. Every solo is a reinvention of an established theme or a journey into an unexplored dimension. This version of Naima raises the bar more than most. Listening to it is like hearing a familiar song sung in a language you've never heard before. The cello is rare in jazz although its has been explored by such luminaries as Fred Katz, Tristan Honsinger, and Abdul Wadud and it has been used to magnificent effect by jazz composers like Alice Coltrane. Still, compared to instruments like the saxophone or bass, the cello has had relatively few innovators within jazz. Maybe I found Murray's voice on the cello so moving here because her work seems so individualistic; she developed a deep style of playing without drawing on a long history of musicians who have explored the sound body of her instrument with an eye to the jazz aesthetic. I think that this recording struck me as a testament to the infinite nature of music because Murray managed to create something intensely beautiful while paving a new musical pathway. She played from a knowledge of the jazz that came before her and worked with Cecil McBee to make Naima her own. It makes me think of all the musical avenues that remain (and will remain) unexplored.

"Hannibal" Marvin Peterson: trumpet
Kenny Barron: piano
Cecil McBee: bass
Billy Hart: drums
Diedre Murray: cello on Naima

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