A mysterious synergy happened to jazz saxophonist Dave McMurray a few years ago.
He was sitting with the band Wolf Bros, an offshoot of The Grateful Dead which counts Bob Weir among its members, and heard tunes (“Dark Star”, “Eyes of the World”) that set him on fire.
“I thought, man, it’s different,” the Detroit-based musician said in an interview from his home. “I immersed myself in their catalog, which is vast. When you listen to The Dead, they have thousands of versions online of every song. Each time, they play it a little differently. I was drawn to it. They were very creative. It wasn’t like jazz, but they had communication like jazz – it was improvised.
McMurray’s new CD, Grateful Deadication, is the result of this deep dive into The Grateful Dead’s rock and jam band music. Songs include “Loser”, “Estimated Prophet” and “Touch of Gray”. He will perform on Wednesday and July 22 with a group of five musicians at the Gold Room.
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“Fire on the Mountain” was the first song he chose for the album. After recording his version of the 1978 hit, but before mixing and finalizing it, he drove while listening to the music in his car. When he pulled into a grocery store while she was playing, a man getting into the car next to him offered her his cart.
“I said yes, thank you, and he said, ‘Anything for a guy listening to’ Fire on the Mountain ‘, and he’s gone,” McMurray said. “My windows were open and he could hear enough the song to know what it was. That’s what you want. I’m glad he recognized what it was. That was the key – you’re on the right track.
The 1975 aria “Franklin’s Tower” was another Dead song that grabbed him. Sometimes you start playing a song and it doesn’t work, for some reason, he said, but then there are the songs that work right away – the melody is catchy and the groove is good.
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“Everyone hears music differently, and they’re drawn to different things in music,” McMurray said. “Some people don’t care about the melody. I listen to the melody first. I listen to the lyrics. I have read them. Then I listen to how they play. I look at him like I’m the singer. I want to sing what I play (with my saxophone). I watch songs that are able to sing for me.
A clarinet on loan from his elementary school kicked off McMurray’s musical career. He liked it, but the sax was more jazzy. And although he wasn’t the most diligent to practice during his teenage years, he loved music and knew it would play a big part in his future.
He continued his studies in music at Wayne State University in Detroit, but changed his specialization several times – first to avoid having to play in a marching band, and second, because the school ended. his program and told him he had to finish his final year at another college. He refused to do so, so he got a degree in psychology and urban studies.
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After school he worked as a substitute teacher for a while, then as a mental health counselor for a halfway house, while playing during his off hours. But when an employer told him he couldn’t take time off to play music, he decided to quit 9 to 5 life and pursue music full time.
Clearly, it worked.
Over the decades he has performed with some of the biggest names in the business, such as BB King, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Bonnie Raitt, Gladys Knight, Albert King, Nancy Wilson and Herbie Hancock.
“I loved the music. I was constantly listening. This is how I am now. That’s why I was drawn to the dead, ”McMurray said.
“I love all types of music. I will hear myself play. If I hear country, I know there is no sax in it, but I think if there was, I would. .
Contact the author: 636-0270
Contact the author: 636-0270