Dave McMurray’s Blue Note Records debut, Music Is Life is a reunion of sorts, given the long history the saxophonist shares with the label’s president, and fellow Detroit native, Don Was. McMurray was a member of Was’ genre-defying unit Was (Not Was), first working together on the band’s self-titled 1981 debut. He’s played on all of the band’s albums and many other Was produced projects in the years since.
McMurray has cemented his reputation for versatility by playing with a vast array of musicians that include B.B. King, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Hallyday, Gladys Knight, Albert King, Nancy Wilson, KEM, Bootsy Collins, Herbie Hancock, Geri Allen, and Bob James. McMurray sounds as assured and inspired in a rock, R&B, funk, pop or folk setting as he does playing hard bop.
McMurray consolidates all of those aforementioned idioms on Music Is Life, creating a cohesive program of groove-based modern jazz that bristles with unalloyed soul. “I wanted it to have the spirit of a funk record,” he says, before rejoicing in the freedom afforded by having minimum chordal support. “I can just hold the melody down or go anywhere else in these songs.” Case in point, the joyous title track “Music Is Life (Live It),” which serves as his personal mantra.