“Live your life so that when you are gone you are missed for a long time,” someone once said, and the wonderful string bassist and enlivening human being Murray Wall, who left us a day ago, is a sterling example. I refuse to use the past tense: as long as we can hear Murray, he IS.
I didn’t play in a rhythm section with Murray, and I only knew him for slightly more than a dozen years. Others have better stories. We spoke occasionally when I showed up at a gig with a camera, and he was kind and friendly always. (Only once, when he performed his comic vocal variations on IT HAD TO BE YOU, did he ask me to keep the video private. And I honor this.)
But I got a sense of his looking-at-the-world stance: more than a little amused but keeping the punchline to himself for the most part. Even when his head wasn’t cocked slightly to one side or an eyebrow raised, it was easy to imagine their presence.
In another culture, he would have been the Sage-Storyteller-Jester-Advisor, and I feel that he was all those things, although he sent his axioms and giggles to us through gut strings on an acoustic bass rather than sermons or pronouncements.
His gentle slyness came through in every note: he didn’t take himself seriously, but he held melody and swing sacred. He loved the music — that’s not a cliche here — and love came from him to us.
HIs ensemble playing was “rock-solid” in the best way; he was someone you could lean on and never fear that the band would fall down. That giant woody sound, never too loud: a plush pillow with clearly defined edges. His tone. His note choices. His speaking way of constructing phrases. His solos were not ego-driven: no twanging notes to start off, to say LOOK AT ME, no scampering up and down the fretboard. Melodies new, rhythms strong, sometimes surprising harmonies, all sending joy.
and Murray’s chosen feature:
I wanted to close with a blues, because I feel grief writing this post. But this is what I came up with: Lester Young’s POUND CAKE, which is whimsical and slightly at a tilt: joy to cut through the sorrow even though the sorrow remains like a stain.
Thank you, Murray. You bless us. I forego my usual closing in his honor, even though Murray always increased our happiness.