The first widely-circulated album issued by the stunning saxophonist Muriel Grossman – an artist we’ve been stocking on imports for the past decade or so, and who quickly became one of or favorites in jazz!
If you’ve not heard Muriel before, this album’s a perfect introduction to her music – and if you’ve been following her already, you’ll definitely be pleased – as Grossman really opens up that mix of modal and spiritual styles she does so well – working with an expanded lineup of instrumentation that adds in her own work on flute, percussion, bass, kalimba, harmonium, and tambura next to the core tenor and soprano sax – in a combo that also features great Hammond B3 from Abel Boquera, guitar from Radomir Milojkovic, and drums from Uros Stamenkovic. At times, the organ is used almost in a Larry Young sort of way – but other moments have the instrument in moodier waves of sound, especially when things get slightly exotic – and the double-length set opens up with beautiful tunes throughout, on long selections that include “Mother Of All”, “Absolute Truth”, “Calm”, “Care”, “All Heart”, “Devotion”, and “Knowledge & Wisdom”.
The album Devotion, the fifteenth studio album in the discography of the Austrian saxophonist and composer Muriel Grossman, who has been living and working on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza for many years, marks her transition under the wing of the American label Third Man Records.
Previously, Muriel published her works mainly on her own label Dreamland Records or the Estonian RR Gems. This is not the only innovation associated with this project. In Grossman’s quartet, alongside her longtime regular partners Radomir Milojkovic (guitars) and Uros Stamenkovic (drums), Barcelona-based organist Abel Boquera appeared during the recording of Devotion. Muriel herself looks like a real multi-instrumentalist in this album: in addition to the saxophones familiar from her previous works (here she uses alto, tenor and soprano) and flute, Grossmann plays the double bass here, as well as on tamboura, kalimba, harmonium and various percussion instruments.
Grossman had previously had a penchant for large, extended compositions, but with Devotion she simply outdid herself. Of the seven tracks on the album, not a single one is shorter than ten minutes, and the program of the hour and a half album opens with the grandiose play Absolute Truth, which lasts almost 22 minutes. This, one might say, is the calling card of the album. The spiritual component of Muriel Grossmann’s work, coming from Coltrane and reflected in the album’s title, here visibly merges with hardbop idioms and modal jazz under an almost funky drum rhythm. Replacing each other as the composition develops, the tenor saxophone of the leader of the quartet, the guitar of Milojkovic, and the Hammond organ of Boquera, who is unusually organically included in this ensemble, perform excellent solos. Then comes Calm, my personal favorite of the album, with fantastically expressive playing from Grossman and equally powerful parts from Milojkovic. Against the background of this piece, the next composition Care, in a soul-jazz style, seemed to me at first a little bland, but the fiery guitar solos, coupled with the excellent work of Boquera and Stamenkovich, began to blur this impression, and Grossman’s solo changed everything radically.
It is curious that in terms of style Muriel does not seem to offer anything revolutionary. But from the already familiar “bricks”, with the talent of an outstanding architect, she assembles a building that is equally harmonious and spectacular, both in structure and in decorative elements. An example of this is literally any piece on the album, and a composition such as Knowledge and Wisdom adds elegant Indian ornamentation to the blues-rock accents, largely due to the flute part from Muriel Grossman. On the title piece, Devotion, Milojkovic’s guitar continues in a blues-rock vein, but Grossman and Boquera gracefully return the piece to a soul-jazz direction. For a spectacular finale, Muriel saved the composition Mother of All, where all the members of the quartet are so convincing that they only confirm the conviction formed during this hour and a half of listening to the album that this is Muriel Grossman’s best album in recent years. Leonid Auskern for Jazz Squad.
I enjoyed working with my new quartet. Our new member is Abel Boquera, a fantastic Hammond player who really provides the band a solid foundation to explore the group playing. His addition has allowed Devotion to continue exploring the outskirts of spiritual jazz, which play an integral part in this genre, by following the thread of Universal Code, my release from last year. I composed the songs in a special sequence to create the feeling of a musical journey. I always work on many things simultaneously, and I can tell you that there will be some great live records, then some wonderful recordings from my vault that were never published before and of course the new studio record with brand-new compositions, scheduled for next year. You can see the meaning of this word reflected in this album in many aspects. I am devoted to music that makes me feel good, delivering an integral album that reflects our musical development as a band, bringing happiness to my fans, being in the here and now. What you are devoted to, you give all your energy,- an interview with me said Muriel Grossman.
We recommend you get it and enjoy it like we do.