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Silken Jazz Album Points To Hidden Diamonds

News Release
For immediate release
November 9, 2009

Silken Jazz Album Points To Hidden Diamonds In New Zealand

Jazz musician and composer Murray McNabb’s latest album Astral Surfers has a definite exotic/worldly/experimental zest and is meditative enough to be able to sit and be transported for a while, which co producer Neil Hannan of SDL Music says can’t be a bad thing.

With instruments as varied as the single tonic Indian drone instrument, the tabla, to the Chinese violin the erhu and dulcimer, this is not an album for those with short attention spans and that’s how McNabb likes it.

The audience for this album, he says, is worldwide - for people looking for something new in music that is not just another variation of Summertime or Bye Bye Blackbird. This is modern mature jazz at its best. There is a following in Europe, Japan and the United States.

“There is also a younger audience that doesn’t want another bunch of pop songs. I call this ‘adult music’ as it is for people who have an attention span that lasts for more than three minutes. It is for those who ‘listen’ to music rather than have music that just bumbles along in the background of their life.”

The album’s genesis was at a concert McNabb did at the Auckland Domain where he was able to realise one of his pet ambitions which was to involve an Indian tabla.

“I came across Basant Madhur who was an extraordinarily proficient Indian drummer now living in New Zealand. I brought him in with the other guys, Frank Gibson and Martin Winch, who was with Frank and I in Dr Tree, a Jazz Rock group in New Zealand in the early 70’s, before there was Jazz Rock. We also have bassist Neil Hannan anῤ our young saxophonist Stephen Morton-Jones.

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McNabb says the album plays with what he calls drone music, which is based around a single tonic rather than the Western way where music is based around chord changes.

He says he has been interested in music from all countries for a long time. That interest was born out of boredom with what was happening in jazz with constantly recycled music from the 40s and 50s which is pretty much based on Jewish pop songs and chord changes.

“Those chord changes are those that go round and round and ‘here it comes again’. When I heard all this other music that was coming from India and the Middle East it interested me more."

McNabb says with this album it is the contribution of the musicians that’s most important.
“I set up a very loose format. It is not about the composition, it is about what the individuals can bring to it. It puts musicians on the spot because they can’t trot out their favourite bebop jazz phrases because it doesn’t work. They have to come up with something new.

“Therefore, I require extremely talented musicians who are open enough and confident in their own ability to be thinking and to apply themselves to what is going on. It would be fair to say everyone involved with this album has really enjoyed themselves because this approach frees them up.”

He also says it is important people realise some of those musicians are virtuoso on their instruments: “And they are right here.”

“In New Zealand at the moment we have a very healthy mix of people making Maori and Pacific Island music, which is great. I just look for something different.”

The first track Marco Polo’s Return involves Chinese instruments.

“I met these musicians while working on a Chinese film being made in NZ. I was captivated by the sound. Both Neil and I heard them and thought we needed to get them on a track.”
The Chinese violin, the erhu, and the hammer dulcimer used in conjunction with the tabla gives this track an exotic ‘Asian’ feel.

The second track Sub-Continental involves an Indian drone instrument called a sruti, a little box that produces the drone based on an Indian scale. It also features a great tabla solo by Basant.

Title track Astral Surfers is based on single scale with an afro jazz beat while Snake involves wah wah pedal on a Fender Rhodes piano and is more in the Miles Davis Bitches Brew type sound.

Badawi Groove has a North African feel about it in the rhythm section.
For SDL’s Neil Hannan, Astral Surfers is another chance to bring quality New Zealand music to a larger audience.

“That is what you could say is our quest. There is a lot of talent and originality in New Zealand and we aim to take it to a wider audience.”

Apart from a long career as a jazz keyboardist and composer, Murray McNabb co-wrote the music scores for the great New Zealand films ‘ONCE WERE WARRIORS’ and ‘BROKEN ENGLISH’.
The Astral Surfers album can be ordered for $30.00 from SDL Music’s website
Retail Distribution: Exile Music Ltd


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