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Jamie Murrell / Press

“Recording jazz is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle, because musicians never play a piece the same way twice. A successful recording must capture the essence of a spontaneous performance that can never be repeated. Pursuing that elusive goal, a quintet of local jazz men recently met for a late-night studio session. Guitarist James Murrell is producing a new CD with the help of Hal Melia (saxophones), Brian Cashwell (keyboard), John Toedtman (bass) and Erik Aylesworth (drums).”

“The musicians faced each other in a large circle, the floor cluttered by microphone cables and sheet music. “We recorded live, with no overdubs, all in one room,” Murrell said. “A completely old-school jazz recording.” The session began with “Alive & Kickin’ ,” a lively jam written by Murrell. Soloists passed the melody around with a glance or a nod, pointing to their heads when it was time to return to the first theme. Melia bobbed up and down and raised his arms while others took their solos.”

“The title of the CD is “Jazz Tent Revival,” which describes Murrell’s personal journey as a musician. “I’ve been trying to promote myself as a cross-over artist into the pop-rock genre for the last couple years and in the process of doing so I’ve lost my way,” he said. “I realized that I’m not a pop artist-singer. I’m a jazz guitarist.” The band then recorded “Simple Solution,” another Murrell original with a slow tempo and complex melody. Between takes they planned solos and transitions, and made minor changes to the score. “The last note in bar 28 should be an e-flat,” Murrell said, making a correction to his chart.”

“While some takes were clearly discards, others possessed that indefinable cohesion that makes them worthy of keeping and sharing. Due to the straightforward recording techniques used, “Simple Solution” was available on Murrell’s website less than 24 hours later. The complete CD will be released Dec. 1 at Jazz Central, where Murrell and his band will perform selections from the disc. “It will be a revival of me playing jazz again,” he said.”

“A versatile guitarist, Murrell’s music incorporates jazz, blues and rock styles. “Certain things are very natural for me, like playing blues,” he said. “But no matter what style I’m playing, I’m accessing my knowledge of jazz, using modal ideas, and even elements of bebop.””

“On the record, Murrell is accompanied by Jerry Francis on drums and John Toedtman playing bass. The album will also include guest musicians such as guitarist James Smith and violist Marna Street. One of the tracks is called “Lost Time” and features a lilting duet with saxophonist Hal Melia.”

“Although Murrell said he understands his “Evolution” CD will not make him wealthy, the project remains meaningful to him. “There aren’t a lot of gigs around Dayton right now,” he explained. “But I have all this music inside me that I need to get out.””

“When he was a child, James Murrell asked for only one thing whenever his family went shopping. “If I saw toy guitars in the store, I’d beg my mom for one,” he recalled. Today, Murrell is a full-time guitar teacher in Centerville, as well as the composer, arranger, performer, producer and engineer for a new album called “Evolution.” Using desktop recording equipment, he has completed several tracks and plans to finish the entire project by March. It will be available in traditional CD form and as a digital download.”

"Murrell said he wants his music to serve as a bridge between jazz and rock, similar to the music of Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheney. “There aren’t as many crossover artists as there used to be,” he said. “And that’s one thing that attracts people into jazz.”

“During his youth, it was Murrell’s interest in Herbie Hancock that led to his discovery of Miles Davis. “I get a lot of my students interested in jazz the same way,” he said.”

“On Jan. 15, Murrell will perform with some of his guitar students at Saxbys coffee shop on Feedwire Road. “I don’t feel like it’s enough to just teach students how to play,” he said. “It’s very important to give them the opportunity to actually perform in public.””

“...the Dayton Jazz Guitar Society...founded and operated by James Murrell...meets for a jam session every Tuesday at 8...Murrell floats between players offering help and advice. Be-bop from the 40's...swing tunes and jazz standards...modern numbers from the 70's...”

“Jazz at the Schuster Performing Arts Center on Nov 29...on the DP&L Stage in the Winter Garden...where the James Murell Jazz Ensemble was giving...an inspired performance...a good size crowd was taking in the...music.”

Ron Gable - Dayton Exposed

“On Sunday, Aug. 4, at Jazz Central...without a doubt, one of the best exhibitions of jazz I've seen...The jammers I met...James Murrell (guitar)...gave me the impression they like to get in some good licks with their peers.”

Ron Gable - Impact Weekly (Dayton, Ohio)

“James immersed himself into... jazz and would jam at Jazz Central on Sunday, which is where I 1st met him. Today, he teaches music, plays at many of our local venues and is very thankful to Lloyd Hazelbaker, Gene Bishop, Phil Willis, Jim Smith, Dave Cliff and Wilbert Longmire for their help.”

Ron Gable - Dayton City Paper