David Murray & the Gwo-Ka Masters | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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David Murray & the Gwo-Ka Masters


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In recent years the hyperactive reedist David Murray has become increasingly interested in fusing his own postfreedom jazz with exotic and relatively hidden folk traditions from Africa and its diaspora. His 1997 disc Fo Deuk Revue matched his dervishlike improvisations with a grab bag of Senegalese musical styles; 1998's Creole documented Murray's visits to Guadeloupe, and featured notable contributions from Guadeloupean drummer Klod Kiavue. On last year's Yonn-De (all three albums are on the Canadian label Justin Time), Murray returned to this music, called gwo-ka, working again with Kiavue and with vocalist Guy Konket, whose throaty chanting conveys a dry but intrepid passion. A cornerstone of the modern island genre zouk, gwo-ka is based on complicated polyrhythms performed on sets of up to ten drums, and Yonn-De is really an extended lewoz, the traditional Guadeloupean evening musicale: the strong rhythms let you almost see the dancers, and the American musicians play the role of invited guests, inspired by the spectacle to join in. Murray himself, on both tenor and bass clarinet, sounds absolutely at home, as his sinuous, sometimes shrieking lines weave between voice and drums. (This should come as no surprise to anyone who's heard his octet, which sports the loose unisons and sublimated call and response found in so many African musical traditions.) For this weekend's performances Murray brings with him much of the crew from the most recent album, including Konket, Kiavue, and the underrecognized trumpeter Hugh Ragin, whose volatile versatility allows him to energize every mood the music presents; ringers for this gig include equally rangy Chicago-based drummer Hamid Drake and crafty guitarist Ed Cherry, whose work is cool yet soulful. Friday and Saturday, April 18 and 19, 9 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.

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