Sunny Murray – Shandar 12” LP

Sunny  Murray

It’s another flurry a’ Murray! This obscure cut originating from, for me, probably his greatest stint (fall of the late 1960’s) on the Shandar record series. Shandar was a French initiative, i believe a series of live concerts (or at least the label that released material from these concerts) which I know included other pressings by Cecil Taylor & Sun Ra (good shit!). The four tracks on the LP were captured live in 1968, & thus sit adjacent to his two riotously cataclysmic cacophonic classics that were issued by the cult Actuel editions (there were actually x3 on Actuel but one was a dud) during the same aeon.

On this eruption, Murray installs seven other assailants, all as far as I am aware incognito members of the French Avant-Garde grotto with the exception of Kenneth Terroade (listed here as Ken Terroade), a hyper recondite disappearing Jamaican saxophonist who conflagrated some of the most intense & flaying saxaphonic extremity OF-ALL-TIME on Sunny’s utter classic “Real” from the album Sunshine. As with the best of Murray, this is a mess of mutant, chaotic-as-fuck, off-key & hysterical psychedelic-algal-blooming. A jactitating jumbling of Jurassic jargon & convulsive nervous collapse, riddled with curt non-connecting frames of vaguely ordered/presentable “musical” rationalizing spilling into asymmetric caterwaul. Desperate, ridiculous, deranged & really quite brilliant. It is not up to the soaring (& indeed searing) standard of the other two decent Actuel counterparts, but the A-side of this LP is definitely a quality expansion on the Murray directive. As usual, Murray is mostly a quivering gush of deforming noise. He plays a kind of flopping blast beat with major’ major attention lavished on the cymbals, which just sound like a swollen & violent stream or fast-moving body of water coursing over/through a fluid-resistant microphone. It’s a racket basically, but it’s exciting & a very primal emanation of cascading energy without abatement, like random extreme motion or something. He messes with gradients within, like the pitch or potency of the drum strokes/bash & on/off foot work, punctuations. Noisy, unsure, uneven, awkward, draconian, nonsensical, passionate. Everyone else around him just kind of fights for, er’ – survival? enlightenment? It’s hard to tell, but this is fantastically mutilated & monstrous mayhem with sections of abject-anxious Avant-whatever.

To the B-side! CRIPES! My heart almost jumped out my arse when I saw the listing of a 15.30 version of Murrays “Flower Train”. Anyone who knows his beyond killer Sunshine LP (his best as far as I am concerned) will know of this sublime cosmos ripping pandemonium boutade & also that it ended way’ way too soon. Here’s a chance to put it right (minus super heavy-weights Roscoe Mitchell, Archie Shepp & Lester Bowie)! Unfortunately we could not be further from that scenario as the opportunity is almost totally wasted by a gigantic poem, orated in a muchos anaemic manner for the majority of the track with tenuous dribble in the background! Oh well. Once it actually gets going it’s not so bad, but the appetite-ruiner & the previous take on the Sunshine LP means that no mustard & no cutting are happening here kid! Murray is a very interesting guy & it’s actually a real bloody pity that he did not get to lead more recordings. Murray meant mayhem, & the results of his recordings went beyond his abilities as a musician by his even greater abilities as a visionary & the dragooning of pandemonium he would push for. Some of his drumming is even quite terrible, but I will always love him for what he achieved & how he urged such overdrive from the musicians he assembled. His playing was Difficult, drastic, ugly even but ginormously unique & utterly out-of-the-frame!

This one can be a bit tough to find & there is no reissue available.

Rekd: 1968

Label: Shandar