Music

Sax with a New York edge

Alex Murzyn and the Pete Amahl Quartet kick off Frank Morgan Jazz Festival

By Ariana Kramer
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 11/13/19

Alex Murzyn is coming to town and he might as well be the Big Bad Wolf. This talented sax player is set for some serious huffing and puffing. And straw, sticks, adobe or bricks - I'll bet you a pretty penny, he will blow the house down.

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Music

Sax with a New York edge

Alex Murzyn and the Pete Amahl Quartet kick off Frank Morgan Jazz Festival

Posted

Alex Murzyn is coming to town and he might as well be the Big Bad Wolf. This talented sax player is set for some serious huffing and puffing. And straw, sticks, adobe or bricks - I'll bet you a pretty penny, he will blow the house down.

But don't be afraid. Come out on Wednesday (Nov. 20) from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at The Taos Inn's Adobe Bar where Alex Murzyn is a featured player with the Pete Amahl Quartet. The free concert launches the 2019 Frank Morgan Taos Jazz Festival presented by the Taos Jazz Bebop Society.

For the Taos Inn show, Murzyn says we can expect to hear postbebop jazz, progressive modern jazz with an aggressive, New York-style of playing - upbeat with a lot of energy.

Listening to Murzyn talk about his musical life, I can't shake the feeling that he was destined for the sax. Originally from Hawaii, Murzyn started out playing flute and guitar. Then, he picked up a sax from the classified ads. He said it was love at first blow.

"I remember the first note, and it was amazing," Murzyn said. He told me it was the sound and the power of the instrument that pulled him in.

"Immediately, the first day, I was playing up and down the thing. It was a calling. I played songs on it. That was from the first day. It was a match for me," Murzyn said.

Murzyn told me he played in Hawaii, studied at the Berklee College of Music and spent the past three decades in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over the course of his career, Murzyn has played traditional and contemporary jazz, soul, rock, funk and Latin. He has been a sideman for many accomplished artists including Huey Lewis and the News, Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, The Temptations, Sammy Davis Jr., Ray Obiedo, Pete Escovedo, Tito Puente, Sheila E, Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Clark, and many more. In addition, Murzyn has performed as part of the pit orchestra for "The Color Purple," "Grease," "A Night with Janis Joplin" and others.

About a year ago, Murzyn was ready for a change from the Bay Area's traffic and pace. His daughter was living in Santa Fe, and after he and his wife visited the City Different, they decided to make it their home. Murzyn told me he hasn't looked back since.

Indeed, he has connected with some of the great jazz musicians that live in our Land of Enchantment and is having a good time making music in his new home. Murzyn is the featured guest for Three Faces of Jazz at El Mesón, 212 Washington Avenue, in Santa Fe, several Fridays each month.

"That's how I met Peter [Amahl], through playing there," Murzyn said. "That's how I started playing up in Taos - through Peter. Connections - you make connections and you make friends, and those friends help you out and then you go play and you make new connections and new friends. That's how it's always been for me.

"I'm involved in a lot of projects that are really exciting to me," Murzyn said. "It's great to move into a new area and plug into a lot of exciting things. I didn't know what was in store for me when I moved here."

Murzyn said he is thrilled to be playing with Bobby Shew, a legendary trumpet player who lives in New Mexico.

"I've been lucky enough to play with him. He has a group. We get together once a week. He's so inspiring to me. It was like a dream come true, because he's a major league trumpet player. He keeps me inspired," Murzyn said.

Amahl was one of the founding members of the New Mexico Jazz Workshop and has played with Natalie Cole, Mose Allison, Frank Morgan and many others. He was originally planning to play with Christine Fawson for this Jazz Festival kick off show, but Fawson had to bow out for personal reasons, and Murzyn is taking her spot.

The annual Frank Morgan Taos Jazz Festival was created to honor alto saxophonist Frank Morgan (1933-2007), who called Taos home. The festival takes place from Nov. 20-23 at several Taos venues.

In a summary statement of the festival, the press release reads, "Since 2015, the Frank Morgan Taos Jazz Festival has presented world-class jazz artists and attracted capacity crowds from far and wide. Saxophone star Grace Kelly, who became Frank Morgan's protégée at the age of 13, will return to headline the festival. She has performed at the festival every year to honor her hero. This year also welcomes the return of pianist George Cables, who had a long musical relationship with Frank. He will appear at TCA with his '25th Anniversary Quartet'- featuring the great saxophonist Doug Lawrence, bassist John Webber and the legendary drummer Louis Hayes. The four are celebrating 25 years since they first began playing together."

The Historic Taos Inn is offering a 10 percent room rate discount to festival attendees. Call (575) 758-2233 for reservations.

The 2019 Frank Morgan Taos Jazz Festival is supported by the Richard B. Siegel Foundation, Harwood Museum of Art, Taos County Lodgers Tax Fund, The Historic Taos Inn and Kind World Foundation. For more information, visit taosjazz.org.

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