Monday, June 10, 2013

RIP Murray McNabb

Well respected Auckland jazz musician Murray McNabb passed away yesterday morning, Sunday, 9th June.

"Auckland composer/jazz pianist Murray McNabb has been at the forefront of NZ jazz for over four decades. A master of the cinematic soundscape, McNabb has scored for television and film and was a member of seminal jazz-fusion groups Dr. Tree, Space Case, Modern Times and Band R." - from the Sarang Bang label, whom he worked with recently, recording alongside the likes of Gianmarco Liguori and Kim Paterson. His band had a regular spot at High st club Cause Celebre in the 1990s.

Reviewing McNabb's 2009 album Astral Surfers, Graham Reid noted "Long-established Auckland keyboard player Murray McNabb is a man whose career has been fascinating to follow. From his days in the jazz-rock fusion band Dr Tree in the early 70s, through Space Case in the 80s and some terrific albums under his own name or with New York musicians (some of which appeared only on cassette if I recall), McNabb has often taken the path less travelled. Any new McNabb album should always command serious attention..."

McNabb also composed for the screen, collaborating with Murray Grindlay. From NZonScreen's bio on Grindlay...

"In 1994 Grindlay teamed with musical colleague Murray McNabb to compose for another Kiwi classic: Once Were Warriors. Grindlay had worked previously with Warriors director Lee Tamahori on noted ad campaigns for Fernleaf butter and the Commonwealth Games.

Grindlay and McNabb won a NZ Film and Television award that year for best film score, and they were invited back to work on Communicado's next stab at an international hit: inter-racial romance Broken English. The two Murrays supplied a spare, moody, percussion-heavy soundtrack, coloured with vocals by jazz and jingle singer Andrea Cook.

The pair reconvened to provide the soundtrack for Warriors sequel What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?, but despite protestations from director Ian Mune, their completed soundtrack was replaced by the work of Australian composer David Hirschfelder. On television, the two Murrays have composed for the religiously-themed The Chosen, and orchestrated colonial bodice-ripper Greenstone..."

Sarang Bang have McNabb's 1990 album Song For The Dreamweaver recorded in New York available online, here's the liner notes written by McNabb...

A Kiwi Bites the Apple

"I first met Ron and Adam in the early 80's when they toured N.Z. with the Dave Liebman group.  Then later I recorded and toured with Ron and Brazilian trumpeter Claudio Roditi for N.Z. Jazz group "Space Case".

Actually, I knew Ron's music well from records with Mike Nock's "Fourth Way" and Charles Lloyd with Keith Jarrett in the late 60's. More recently he's been with Dave Leibman and Richie Bierach. Adam has been with John Schofield and Mike Brecker - heavy company.

When I decided to take the big trip to New York, it seemed like a good idea to make a record and Ron was the natural person to contact.  We had a two hour rehearsal my second day there and then visited the studio.  There was Eddie Henderson, Victor Lewis and Cecil McCee, so I knew I had come to the right place. The next day we recorded 10 originals in 8 hours.

The rest of the trip was a Jazz fan's Nirvana as, with my wife and N.Y. Navigator Edwina Thorn, we made a continual tour of New York clubs, meeting and hearing so many musicians who I have been listening to and reading about for thirty years from the other side of the world..." - Murray McNabb.

From CJC Creative Jazz Club's newsletter/website...

RIP Murray McNabb 1947-2013
"It's with sadness that we note the passing of Murray McNabb yesterday. He stood out as a singularly talented pianist and composer, walking his own path in the NZ jazz scene. Our thoughts are with his family and friends...

...Murray will be remembered fondly by the musicians who had the privilege to play with him, and those who his music inspired. For my part, seeing his Band R lineup with my uncle on guitar at an impressionable age showed me that music of that quality didn't come just on records, and inspired me to become a musician myself. We will update our page with details of his memorial here once they are available."
- Ben McNicoll, For Creative Jazz Club Aotearoa

From NZ Herald notices, June 11, 2013: "McNABB, Murray. Passed away on 9th June 2013. Loved partner of Koula, and father of Andrew, Kane and Byron. A service will be held at the Romaleigh Funeral Home, 31 Ocean View Road, Northcote on Thursday 13th June at 1:00pm. In lieu of flowers donations please to the Cancer Society of New Zealand, P. O. Box 1724, Shortland Street, Auckland."

From the NZ Herald guestbook on that notice: "My dear mate Murray passed away on the 9 June 2013. Friends for 50 years since I went looking for the boy who wrote Monk on the wall at Mt Albert Grammar school. So many musical ventures together over the years. Conspirators in the true sense of the word:- 'to breathe the spirit together'. Will always be in our hearts and together forever in our music. Our love and sympathy to Koula and his sons." - Frank and Rosie Gibson, and family.

ADDED Tuesday 11 June: Graham Reid speaks to Radio NZ about McNabb's life and times, noting that he had been diagnosed with cancer a year ago. Reid interviewed McNabb a few weeks ago for a feature in the Listener, and a longer piece which will appear online. Well worth a listen.

ADDED 13 June: Murray McNabb profile – the extended version, from The Listener.
Graham has posted the extended version of his interview with McNabb, joined by his longtime musical collaborator Frank Gibson, done a few weeks before his passing. A shorter version due to be published in The Listener this week.

ADDED 5 Jan 2014: Sarang Bang Records to release last recording by Murray McNabb via Sunday Star Times...

"[the] label now plans to release a series of vinyl records culled from the huge archive of McNabb's unreleased jazz recordings stretching to the 1960s.

The first album, slated for release early this year, was recorded in the months before McNabb's death and features McNabb on piano and keyboards, alongside drummer Frank Gibson and guitarist Neil Watson.

Sarang Bang Records founder Gianmarco Liguori said the final recording session for the album, entitled Every Day Is a Beautiful Day, was only days before McNabb's death.

"Frank picked Murray up from the hospice to record the last track, and he had all the IV equipment and his morphine pump and everything - he was almost gone. But once he got behind the keyboard, he was alive. He knew he had a few days to live. You can hear it in the music."

Murray McNabb interview and performance, from kiwi jazz radio show Off The Record, hosted by Tony Hopkins, produced by Andrew Dubber.
2007 interview: RNZ's Trevor Reekie spoke to Dr Tree original members Frank Gibson Jnr, Murray McNabb and Martin Winch about the the seeds of NZ jazz-rock and the rebirth of Dr Tree... listen here
Murray McNabb performing "Cosmic Protrusion" from Gianmarco Liguori's 'Duga 3' (download)
Murray McNabb's music at
Murray McNabb discography credits at


Chris Martin said...

I worked with the Murray on many Jingles and soundtracks and found him a wonderful person to work with. Quick to smile, and then it was always me with a smile when he started to play. A true talent, and a true gentleman.

Susan Curnow said...

I am truly sad to learn that my cousin Murray has left us. I wanted to tell him that he did indeed have an Irish born great great grandfather. When told it might be a possibility he was not impressed as McNabb was truly a Scots name and that was all he would accept! Wish I could say that his musical talent was shared around us McNabbs but this gift came from his mother's side.You have left us a legacy,Murray. Thank you from your cousin Susan