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Concert Reviews:
David McMurray at the Wright Museum, 5 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2018

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David McMurray has been a fixture on the Detroit music scene -- and beyond -- for more than four decades.

His credits include group such as Was (Not Was), Griot Galaxy and Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker. He spent years as part of the late French singer Johnny Hallyday’s band and as KEM’s musical director, and McMurray’s session credits -- often for good pal Don Was -- include the Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Iggy Pop, Geri Allen, Bob Dylan and others.

McMurray’s latest problem is his own -- “Music Is Life,” an album recorded with his trio and released during May on Was’ Blue Note label. The 11-track set mixes originals with covers such as the White Stripes’ “Seven National Army” and George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog,” and it offers an overview of what the former Cranbrook Academy student and Wayne State University grad has done over the years -- and where he hopes to take his music in the future....

• McMurray, 62, says his goal with “Music Is Life” was “to make an album that sounds like me. It’s kind of a combination of all the things I’ve done -- the blues, the funk, the record. It crosses all my roots, but still sounds like me. I’m not gonna try to play a certain way. I just play like I play. That was the best thing; when I finished it and listened to it, I got to the end and said, ‘Well, that sounds like me,’ and that was the best thing I could say.”

• McMurray very deliberately chose to record “Music Is Life” with a trio rather than a quartet or larger ensemble. “Everybody has a quartet; There’s 50,000 of them, and they all sound good. That’s how I got to the trio and went that way with it. It’s a fun concept, and hopefully it connects with people. It’s pretty stripped down, but I like that. It gives us all room to really play and express ourselves.”

• Being part of Blue Note, a legendary jazz label, is particularly pleasing for McMurray. “This is a lifetime of wishes. It’s classic. I sit and listen to those records now like they’re new -- Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter...It’s like the iconic place to be. To think I’m in there now...Wow, y’know?”

• McMurray chose the “Seven Nation Army” and “Atomic Dog” covers to pay homage to his home town. I definitely wanted to have some connection to Detroit on here,” says McMurray, who also wrote “Bob City D” and “Detroit Theme/Detroit 3” for the album. “I didn’t want to do the usual Motown cover or anything like that. I wanted to do (songs) that might surprise people. When we did ‘Atomic Dog’ the other guys looked at me like, ‘Ok...’ and we counted it off and it just happened. We made it to the end and said, ‘That’s pretty good...’ ‘Seven Nation Army’ was the same kind of thing.”

• McMurray is already starting to plan additional albums under his deal with Blue Note, though he’ll likely stay with a core trio and augment it. “I like the attitude of having more than one record so you can develop on something. That’s something Blue Note always had. There was more than one record and the (artists) had a way to develop their whole career there. I told Don that was my goal, and he said, ‘Done. We’re gonna do that.’”

If You Go

• David McMurray

• 7 p.m. Saturday, June 30.

• Charles H. Wright Museum, 315 E. Warren Ave., Detroit.

• Admission is free.

• Call 313-494-5800 or visit thewright.org.

Web Site: www.thewright.org

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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