"...an exploration of timbres and textures in a way that was tonally and percussively rich – even luxuriant at times."
AusJazzBlog, 3 June 2012
"...truly dream-like sequences"
The Weekend Australian, Oct 4th 2008
Big Creatures & Little Creatures (Independent)
BASSIST Tamara Murphy, who received the 2012 inaugural PBS Young Elder of Jazz Commission, heads a band here with drummers Joe Talia and Daniel Farrugia, trombonist Jordan Murray and guitarist Nashua Lee. The ensemble blends heady atmospherics with grooves and melodies, along with a mix of electronics and superlative musicianship. Boulders Make Strong Friends opens with Murray providing a thrusting staccato trombone over guitar, bass and drums. It shifts to a riveting guitar solo, underpinned by driving drums before fading into electronic atmospherics. The track then segues into Refractal, followed by the final take, Bitter Sweet. Opening with Murphy's accentuated bass, Murray's trombone then enters so subdued, floating across the top like a wraith. As Murphy starts bowing the bass, her distinctly classical lines come through over Lee's guitar. This is enchanting stuff, it's hypnotic and hallucinatory, and is not an album you mindlessly play in the background. Rather, it requires close listening.
EG's weekly album reviews, February 8, 2013
Big Creatures & Little Creatures
An increasing trend among jazz professionals is to use unusual mixes of instruments. This album from the quintet led by Melbourne bassist Tamara Murphy is an example. Murphy won last year's PBS Young Elder of Jazz Commission, which funded the project. She has added to her acoustic bass a guitar, trombone, two drummers and electronic soundscapes for an original suite of five movements, each showcasing a different ensemble member. These five Big Creatures are interspersed with three Little Creatures as links between movements. The approach ranges from lush textural, semi-classical washes to heavy stereo drumming, grooving or dreamy trombone and ambient or rock-oriented guitar; in short, a comprehensive sonic diversity.
The first movement, A Song for Two Rivers, opens with Jordan Murray's melodic pastoral trombone, underpinned by slow-moving bass and Nashua Lee's guitar ostinato. Rhythmic swirling brushes introduce Paircut, stabbing bass and chordal guitar building for a fiery, swinging trombone solo. A staccato trombone pattern over spaced pedals of aligned bass, guitar and mallets leads into an unexpected slashing rock guitar solo driven by a strong backbeat in Boulders Make Strong Friends. Bitter Sweet, the final movement, begins with forceful, first beat of the bar resonant bass notes ushering in quietened trombone as Murphy applies the bow to a singing bass, the guitar echoes with soft chords, and the drums supply a Latin beat. This collection is an impressive set of quality ensemble playing alternating between compositional and improvised performances.
The Australian, December 1, 2012
Melbourne bassist Tamara Murphy's high calibre sextet has recorded eight of her originals, four of them live at Bennett's Lane and four in the ABC studios, with an album title taken from a Japanese folkloric character. Most of these pieces are played at a slow tempo, with one exception, Catalyst Boy opens at an ultra slow pace, but soon moves to furioso speed with Julien Wilson's tenor sax in leaping overdrive overtaken by Nashua Lee's racing guitar. Sweet Dreams proceeds at an unhurried speed in a lagging beat with tenor sax, guitar and Shannon Barnett's trombone all contributing sweetly to truly dream-like sequences. The leader's bass introduces Lilac Wine, a slow ballad featuring elegantly measured trombone ideas with Joe Talia double timing on cymbals. Slow Exposure is exactly that, gradually revealing its quiet theme. These players inject an enticing continuity of slo-mo mood throughout with trombone and tenor sax working together superbly in tranquillity or occasionally tumult.
The Weekend Australian, Oct 4th, 2008
Soundvault SVO 620
This Melbourne quintet, led by bassist Tamara Murphy, features some creative players in Julien Wilson (saxophone), Shannon Barnett (trombone), Nashua Lee (guitar) and Joe Talia (drums). For this project, Murphy expanded the ensemble to incorporate a string quartet, plus the turntables of Jamshid ‘Jumps’ Khadiwala (from The Cat Empire). The six tracks take the listener on a colourful journey, with constantly changing textures and rhythms, and some gripping statements from the soloists. Imaginative writing and bold, confident playing ensure the various components are integrated successfully.
Limelight Magazine, 2008
After an acclaimed debut in 2002 with Telling Tales, Murphy's Law is back on the streets, toting a string quartet and Jamshid "Jumps" Khadiwala (of Cat Empire fame) on turntables.
Bassist Tamara Murphy leads this unlikely ensemble in a tribute to street artists that explores electronic techniques (delay, sampling, looping) with improvised acoustic music. With its energy, undercurrents and restless urgency, it effectively evokes street life. Murphy's compositions reflect city art's haste and impermanence, recalling glimpses, echoes and snippets of conversation in a colourful journey that can be gritty as well as delicate.
Nashua Lee's guitar works superbly, either throbbing with life or as a muted backdrop to Julien Wilson's saxophone and Shannon Barnett's trombone. Sampled voices break like thoughts into serene sax on Street Art Part 3, with filigree strings as a garnish.
Murphy has inspired a wildly successful integration of classical, jazz and electronica.
Sunday Herald Sun, Sept 21, 2008
In Short: Melbourne band spins fine tales with soul and style
One of the most striking sounds emanating from jazz scenes around the world is coming from a new generation of guitarists seemingly attuned to rock and beyond rather than the role models of years gone by, such as Wes Montgomery.
Australia's contribution to this ear-grabbing trend is enhanced by the brilliant, dizzying contributions of Nashua Chen Lee, who joins the likes of Steve Magnusson, James Muller and Cameron Deyell as a frontrunner in the guitar wizardry stakes.
But he is only one of the joys to be found on this outing by a Melbourne outfit led by bassist Tamara Murphy, not least being the leader's moody grooves in terms of composing.
Add to the mix tenor saxophonist Julien Wilson, trombonist Jordan Murray and drummer Joe Talia, and you are listening to jazz of a very high order.
Sunday Herald Sun, June 26, 2005
There's been no shortage of strong CD releases by locals bands this year, but the one I've been most excited by is the debut album from Murphy's Law. This band is led by bassist-composer Tamara Murphy, who has been increasingly prominent over the last few years, working with people like Allan Browne, Tony Gould, The Hoodangers, Will Poskitt, Craig Fermanis, and Jamie Oehlers, among others. She also did a great job in the 'house band' for the National Jazz Awards at Wangaratta 2003.
Joining her are tenor saxophonist Julien Wilson, trombonist Jordan Murray, guitarist Nashua Lee and drummer Joe Talia. The personnel gives her a head start, as Wilson and Murray are such accomplished players, and have often worked together in several bands, notably Ish Ish.
Telling Tales is an apt title for this album. Thanks to Murphy's skills as a composer and the efforts of the soloists, each track does indeed tell a tale, rather than allowing everyone to take turns at showing off what they can do. Tenor saxophonist Julien Wilson plays with tremendous imagination and fire (check out his opening salvo on 'Largo'), which is balanced by trombonist Jordan Murray's more measured approach.
Guitarist Nash Lee is the wild card in the band. Whether soloing or accompanying, he constantly produces unexpected melodic and textural ideas. Not a bebop cliche in sight. Murphy, meanwhile, holds it all together in tandem with drummer Joe Talia. In her own purposeful playing, as well as her writing, she suggests the influence of such bassists as Dave Holland and Mark Helias, which is no mean feat for a young bassist on her first recording.
Rhythms Magazine, November 2004
Bennett's Lane, November 11, 2012
When Tamara Murphy was awarded the PBS Young Elder of Jazz Commission this year, it spurred the young Melbourne bassist to create an ambitious five-part suite (Big Creatures & Little Creatures) for her band, Murphy's Law.
The suite's composed movements (or "big creatures") are interspersed with spontaneously improvised passage ("little creatures"), and the movements can be arranged in any order and led by any member of the ensemble.
The idea, as Murphy explained before embarking on Sunday's performance, is to blur the line between composition and improvisation, and the keep the players - bandleader included - on their toes. This is a work that requires close listening, from participants and audience alike. Fortunately, the rewards for such focused attention are ample. Sunday night's concert took us on a fascinating sonic journey, filled with shifting moods, textures and musical motifs. Murphy introduced the first movement (A Song for Two Rivers) with some exploratory harmonics on arco bass, then settled into a restful sway beneath Jordan Murray's beautifully burnished trombone. Paircut was pinned to a muscular, funky backbeat, while Boulders Make Strong Friends saw the band dive into unexpectedly gritty rock territory, complete with a blazing guitar solo from Nashua Lee.
The final movement (Bitter Sweet) was a miniature suite in itself. Murphy and Jordan began with a hypnotic, dreamlike duet before drummers Joe Talia and Daniel Farrugia introduced and irresistible Latin shuffle, gradually amping up the volume until they were throbbing in syncopated tandem like twin heartbeats. Superb.
The Age, November 13, 2012
Murphy’s Law premieres “Big Creatures Little Creatures: The Modular Suite”, written for MIJF by PBS Young Elder of Jazz Competition winner Tamara Murphy — Jordan Murray trombone, Nashua Lee guitar, Tamara Murphy bass, Joe Talia & Daniel Farrugia on drums and percussion — at Bennetts Lane, Melbourne, Saturday, June 2 at 8pm for Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2012.
Murphy’s Law plays “Big Creatures & Little Creatures: The Modular Suite”
It’s the sign of a good festival, I’ve been told, when there are gigs you’d love to be at that clash with others you can’t miss. Tamara Murphy‘s suite clashed with visiting saxophonist Chris Potter‘s appearance with the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra at The Forum and I had decided on the big band — until I realised that fast footwork could allow a visit to Bennetts Lane before catching Potter in the second set.
I was really glad that I’d opted to hear the Australian (and world) premiere of Murphy’s work, because it was entrancing. It was also, to my surprise given the modular nature of the suite (referred to by Murphy in an interview with Miriam Zolin before the work was complete), not at all fragmented, but rather seemed to be compellingly cohesive.
But how much was improvised on the night and how much was scripted? None of the musicians appeared to be using any charts, and there was a level of concentration and intensity that usually accompanies spontaneous improvisation. Clearly the musicians were highly attentive to what the others were up to, but it was almost as if they were following a script that was not written down, yet was in their heads. Surely there must have been hours of rehearsal for this suite to work so well, but I do not know whether that’s the case.
The suite came across as an exploration of timbres and textures in a way that was tonally and percussively rich — even luxuriant at times. Some pairings of instruments worked extremely well — Murphy’s bowed bass with Murray’s muted trombone, Lee’s guitar with Murphy’s bowed bass — and Farrugia’s intensity on drums contributed significantly.
Big Creatures Little Creatures was relatively subdued until the latter stages, when that changed as the work ended in a real climax. The tight playing at this point emphasised the musicians’ synchronicity, especially as exemplified by Talia and Farrugia, who worked faultlessly together on drums in a way that was hard to believe.
I would definitely like to hear this suite performed again, perhaps at a Stonnington Jazz or Wangaratta Jazz festival. It deserves a wider audience than there was space for in the large room at Bennetts Lane, though that was packed.
With this work, Murphy and her colleagues have added to the growing list of important and engrossing suites created in Australia, such as those by Allan Browne et al (The Drunken Boat, Une Saison en Enfer) in Melbourne and Stu Hunter (The Muse, The Gathering) in Sydney.
Ausjazz Blog, June 3, 2012
The Toff in Town
Tuesday 16 September
Melbourne bass player Tamara Murphy spent much of last year working on a new project designed to combine the different musical styles that informed her approach as a player. The result was Street Art, a three-part suite combining jazz with elements of rock, electronica and contemporary classical music.
Murphy launched the Street Art recording - along with a new CD by her jazz quintet Murphy's Law - with a memorable concert on Tuesday night at the Toff in Town.
The evening's first set was drawn from Tanuki's Revenge (the Murphy's Law CD), and featured the quintet in typically potent form. Most tunes were driven by the propulsive twin-engine team of Murphy and drummer Joe Talia, creating sturdy but malleable grooves for the horns and guitar to hook into. Sweet Dreams (the Eurythmics' pop hit) was given a deliciously grimy late-night drawl, while Catalyst Boy corralled a bracing, free-for-all explosion within the mournful plod of a New Orleans funeral procession.
For the second set, the band was joined by a string quartet and turntable artist Jamshid 'Jumps' Khadiwala. This extended ensemble performed the Street Art suite: a sophisticated and innovative work that explored the possibilities of electro-acoustic fusion. Rather than using the strings simply as a lush backdrop, Murphy asked the classical players to recreate various electronic effects: echo and reverb; looping and layering; sharp accents and shimmering waves. The core quintet (Murphy, Talia, saxophonist Julien Wilson, trombonist Shannon Barnett and guitarist Nashua Lee) interacted with the strings - soloing with extended techniques, or adding a driving pulse to anchor the sometimes dissonant voicings - while Jumps deepened the rhythmic momentum with syncopated samples and scratches.
The final movement was particularly compelling, Wilson improvising over Jumps' slow-motion blurs, then merging with the strings to produce eerily resonant tonal effects - a fascinating example of how imaginative thinking can point the way to new directions in music.
The Age, 19 September, 2008