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Sunny Murray.jpg

James Marcellus Arthur "Sunny" Murray (born Idabel, Oklahoma in 1936) is one of the pioneers of the free jazz style of drumming.

Murray spent his youth in Philadelphia before moving to New York City where he began playing with Cecil Taylor: "We played for about a year, just practicing, studying - we went to workshops with Varèse, did a lot of creative things, just experimenting, without a job" [1] He featured on the influential 1962 concerts in Denmark released as Nefertiti the Beautiful One Has Come.

He was among the first to forgo the drummer's traditional role as timekeeper in favor of purely textural playing. "Murray's aim was to free the soloist completely from the restrictions of time, and to do this he set up a continual hailstorm of percussion ... continuous ringing stickwork on the edge of the cymbals, an irregular staccato barrage on the snare, spasmodic bass drum punctuation and constant, but not metronomic, use of the sock-cymbal" [2]

After his period with Taylor's group, Murray's influence continued as a core part of Albert Ayler's trio who recorded Spiritual Unity: "Sunny Murray and Albert Ayler did not merely break through bar lines, they abolished them altogether." [3]

He later recorded under his own name for ESP-Disk and then when he moved to Europe for BYG Actuel.




As leader

  • "The Hilversum Session" (Osmosis)
  • "Sunny's Time Now"
  • "The Lie" (DIW Records)
  • "Sunny Murray" (ESP Disk)
  • "Spiritual Infinity" (yet unreleased) (Columbia)
  • "Big Chief" (EMI/Pathe)
  • "Hommage To Africa" (BYG Actuel)
  • "Sunshine" (BYG Actuel)
  • "An Even Break (Never Give A Sucker)" (BYG Actuel)
  • "Aigu-Grave" (Marge)
  • "Live At Moers-Festival" (Moers Musc)
  • "Indelicacy" (Westwind)
  • "13# Steps on Glass" (Enja)

as The Untouchable Factor:

As sideman

with Cecil Taylor

  • "Cell Walk for Celeste" (Candid)
  • "Cecil Taylor Jazz Unit, The Early Unit 1962" (Ingo)
  • "Live At The Cafe Montmartre" (Debut)
  • "Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come" (Debut)
  • "It Is In The Brewing Luminous" (hat Hut)

with Albert Ayler

with Gil Evans

with Jimmy Lyons

  • "Jump Up/What To Do About" (hat Hut)

with David Eyges

  • "Crossroads" (Music Unlimited)

with Billy Bang

with Khan Jamal

  • "Infinity" (Jam'Brio)
  • "Change of the Century Orchestra" (JAS)
  • "Speak Easy" (Gazell)

with Alexander von Schlippenbach:

  • "Smoke" (FMP)

with Bill Dixon and Archie Shepp:

  • "Bill Dixon 7-tette/Archie Shepp And The New York Contemporary 5" (Savoy)

with Cheikh Tidiane Fall and Malachi Favors:

with Burton Greene and Alan Silva:

  • "Firmanence" (Fore)

with David Murray:

with Dave Burrell:

with Aki Takase:

  • "Clapping Music" (Enja)

with The Reform Art Unit:

  • "Subway Performances" (Granit)

with Charles Gayle and William Parker:

  • "Kingdom Come" (KFW)

with Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers:

  • "Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers/Sonny Murray Quartet-1968"(JCD)

with Archie Shepp:

  • "Live at the Panafrican Festival" (BYG Actuel)
  • "A Black Woman" (BYG Actuel)
  • "Black Gipsy" (America)
  • "Pitchin Can" (America)
  • 'St. Louis Blues" (PAO)

with Gunter Hampel:

  • "Gunter Hampel And His Galaxie Dream Band: Journey To The Song Within" (Birth)

with Sabir Mateen:

  • "We Are Not At The Opera" (Eremite)

with Christian Brazier

  • "Peregrinations" (Bleu Regard)

with Walter Malli

  • "Geh' langsam durch die alten Gass'n" (PAO)

with Kenny Millions

  • "No Money No Honey" (Hum Ha)

with Clifford Thornton

with Arthur Doyle

  • "Dawn of a New Vibration" (Fractual)
  • "Live at Glenn Miller Café" (Ayler)

with Francois Tusques

  • "Intercommunal Music" (Shandar)

with Assif Tsahar and Peter Kowald:

  • "MA: Live at Fundacio Juan Miro" (Hopscotch)

with The Contemporary Jazz Quartet

  • "The Contemporary Jazz Quartet featuring Sunny Murray: Action" (Debut)


  1. ^ Lock, Graham (1994). Chasing the Vibration. Devon: Stride Publications. pp. 120. ISBN 1873012810.  
  2. ^ Wilmer, Val (1977). As Serious as your life. Quartet. ISBN 0-7043-3164-0.  
  3. ^ Litweiler, John (1984). The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958. Da Capo.  

External links


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