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Sax star Dave McMurray shines with new Black Light Collective project

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Veteran Detroit saxophonist Dave McMurray recruited some "young guy energy" for a show he did during last summer's Concert of Colors, paying homage to the socially conscious jazz music of the 60s and 70s.

It worked out so well that McMurray turned it into a new band, Black Light Collective, whose self-titled debut album comes out Friday, July 17.

"Some of these guys are 30 years younger than me!" says McMurray. A former Cranbrook Academy student, he's played with Was (Not Was), leads his own band and has worked with Kid Rock, KEM and Johnny Hallyday as well as in sessions for the Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan and others. "They had the same enthusiasm for that music as I did back when it first came out. I couldn't play it myself back then, but these guys are all over it. It was really good working with them."

Black Light Collective isn't only for the young, mind you. McMurray is joined in the endeavor by Was (Not Was) mates Luis Resto and Rayse Biggs as well Larry Fratangelo, also from Kid Rock's Twisted Brown Trucker band and Parliament/Funkadelic. They're joined by "youngsters" such as trombonist Kenneth Gill, trumpeter Allen Dennard, bassist Ibrahim Jones, drummer Jeff Canady, vocalists Isis Damil and Malik Alston, and keyboardist Maurice O'Neal from McMurray's D3 band. Guitarist Showboat Shavers and djembe player Sowande Keita round out the lineup.

Recorded late last year, mostly live in the studio at Resto's Feeder Loft in Detroit's Eastern Market, the album features mostly originals as well as covers of Max Roach's "Freedom Day" and the Jazz Crusaders' "Freedom Sound."

"It was a totally different approach," McMurray says. "When I record for me, everything starts from the sax and I just go from there. On this I wanted to showcase everybody and let other instruments play the melody, and the singers on those tracks. I really didn't know how it was gonna turn out. Usually I'm micromanaging a little more, but I just kind of let it go, and the results were better than I could have hoped for."

McMurray is currently exploring some vehicles for Black Light Collective to play live within pandemic protocols. He does plan to film some performances during the near future and will release those when ready. And McMurray is already moving on his next project, an album of Grateful Dead songs that he's still in the process of picking out.

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