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Sunny Murray

James Marcellus Arthur "Sunny" Murray (born September 21, 1936 in Idabel, Oklahoma) is one of the pioneers of the free jazz style of drumming.


  • Biography 1
  • Discography 2
    • As leader 2.1
    • As sideman 2.2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


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 was featured on the influential 1962 concerts in Denmark released as Nefertiti the Beautiful One Has Come.

Murray 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

As sideman

with Cecil Taylor

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

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

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

  • Loved by Millions (Leo)
  • Mayhem in Our Streets (Waterland)
  • 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)

with Telectu


  1. ^ Lock, Graham (1994). Chasing the Vibration. Devon: Stride Publications. p. 120.  
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Litweiler, John (1984). The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958. Da Capo. 

External links

  • Brainy History
  • Audio Recordings of WCUW Jazz Festivals - Jazz History Database
  • Interview (2003)
  • Interview (November 2000)
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