100 Jazz Profiles
1955 - present
Saxophonist and bandleader. One of the most innovative and inventive musicians in jazz, Murray began developing his prodigious skill on tenor sax at the age of nine. He grew up in California, and came to New York in 1975.
He was soon active on the loft jazz scene, leading his own quartet, and an octet which he continues to lead into the 21st century. He also played with Jack DeJohnette's special edition, and with the World Saxophone Quartet of which he was a founding member.
His ability to play through the extremes of range on tenor (and bass clarinet) and his use of circular breathing, which allows him to play spectacularly long phrases, has given him the tools to play in almost all styles of jazz. He is at home playing in a free context, either solos or in a group, but he also works brilliantly in the more formal structures of earlier styles of jazz.
His big band (which he has led in New York since 1984) has played everything from his own new music to the classic works of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. In the 1980s his big band was conducted by experimental composer and cornettist Butch Morris, and he and Murray produced some stimulating and unusual music.
More recently, Murray has worked with big bands recruited in many countries of the world, bolstered by members of his regular octet. He has also explored the interface between jazz and traditional world music - with the Fo Deuk Revue from Senegal, for example. His best work combines the energy and fire of his own playing with his original and exploratory compositions.
Gary Giddins: David Murray (Profuse) in Visions of Jazz (New York, Oxford University Press, 1998)
Octet Plays Trane (Justin Time JUST 131-2)
Suggested track: The Crossing
Unofficial David Murray site
Comprehensive listing of Murray CDs and extensive session notes
on radio 3
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