Murray, Sunny (James Marcellus Arthur)

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Murray, Sunny (James Marcellus Arthur)

Murray, Sunny (James Marcellus Arthur), free-jazz drummer; b. Idabel, Okla., Sept. 21, 1937. Sunny Murray is considered to be one of the true originals of free drumming. He started drums at nine, and was self-taught, encouraged by his stepbrother; he played trombone and trumpet briefly. He moved to N.Y. in 1956, and worked with Henry “Red” Allen, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Jackie McLean, Rocky Boyd, Ted Curson. He met Cecil Taylor in 1959 and they began working together; they toured Europe with Jimmy Lyons in 1963. Murray met Albert Ayler and formed trio with bassist Gary Peacock, recording and touring. He also played with Omette Coleman, Don Cherry, John Coltrane, among others, and led his own groups in N.Y. and Philadelphia, featuring many younger players who have since become prominent. In 1968, he moved to France; he performed in the Pan-African Fest, in Algiers with Archie Shepp. He later returned to Philadelphia where started a musical relationship with Philly Joe Jones and played with his own groups, including The Untouchable Factor, recording during the 1970s and appearing at the Wildflowers Festival in 1976. During the 1980s, he led his own quintets, including one with the unusual instrument of two saxes and two violins and drums; he also composed a few film scores.


Sunny’s Time Now (1965); Sunny Murray Quintet (1966); Sunny Murray (1966); Hard Cores (1968); Big Chief (1968); Sunshine (1969); Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1969); Homage to Africa (1969); In Paris: Big Chief (1970); Charred Earth (1978); Applecores (1978); Live at the Moers Festival (1979). Albert Ayler: New York Eye and Ear Control (1964); Spiritual Unity (1964); Bells (1965); Spirits Rejoice (1965); Bells-Prophecy (1999).

—Lewis Porter

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Murray, Sunny (James Marcellus Arthur)

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