Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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MURRAY, Sunny

(b James Marcellus Arthur Murray, 21 Sep. '37, Idabel OK) Drummer. Self-taught from age nine; went to NYC '56, played with Red Allen, Willie 'The Lion' Smith, then Jackie McLean, Ted Curson; met Cecil Taylor '59 and became a leading light of the avant garde. Went to Europe with Taylor and Jimmy Lyons '63; joined trio with Albert Ayler and bassist Gary Peacock; played with Don Cherry, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, etc. Returned to France '68 for several months, played with Archie Shepp, Grachan Moncur III, etc. An album was recorded privately by LeRoi Jones '65 with quintet incl. Cherry, Ayler, Jones speaking on one track; it was released on Jihad under Murray's name. Sunny Murray Quintet '66 was on ESP; a sextet recorded for CBS '68 but session wasn't released; Sunny Murray's Untouchable Factor played at the Wildflowers Festival '76 (with David Murray), made Apple Cores '78 on Philly Jazz (latter with Don Pullen, Cecil McBee, Frank Foster); the rest of his LPs were made in Europe: Big Chief '68--9 on French labels with French sidemen; Homage To Africa '69 (with Shepp, Roscoe Mitchell, Lester Bowie, nine others), Sunshine and An Even Break (Never Give A Sucker) with similar, smaller groups all '69 on Byg, the latter also on Affinity; trio Live At Moers Festival on Moers, trio African Magic 'Great African Encounter' made in Kln on Circle, both '79. Mayhem In Our Street was on Waterland; trio Jump Up -- What To Do About '80 co-led by Jimmy Lyons and with bassist John Lindberg was on hat Art, issued on CD with an additional track under Lyons's name as Jump Up; Indelicacy '87 on West Wind was a quartet; Smoke '89 on FMP a duo with pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach; with the Viennese group Reform Art Unit: Subway Performance '93 on RAU, Illumination '94 on In Respect; Kingdom Come '94 on Knitting Factory was a trio with Charles Gayle on reeds and piano and William Parker on bass. Murray was the first free drummer, influencing a whole generation, and is still at it.