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, Belarus
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