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Interviews

Sunny Murray

By Published: October 14, 2003
The first strange thing was he got a gig in Connecticut and he decided to use Buell, and there was a period in New York that it snowed so much you weren't allowed to go out in your car. But me, him and Buell, he was a little crazy, we snuck out, snow everywhere. If the police caught us, we'd have got busted. And we got onto Hudson Drive and we went up to Connecticut and this was the first gig. And when Cecil went inside they said no, he's been replaced and wouldn't sign the contract. I was really young, so I went in the office and Cecil had to calm me down, I cried ' I'm a crybaby ' and Cecil calmed me down, and I said 'how can you be so calm, man! The cat just nixed us!' So we went to eat and I couldn't eat, and we snuck back into town, and so then it was sorta clear what I might be going into' [laughing] I'm really not putting down any experience I had with CT, good or bad. They attacked him and tried to attack me, a lot of crazy things but CT just laughed about 'em when I relate the memories because I talked to him about a month ago, and we really laugh about this shit sometimes. The first thing he said when I got him on the phone was, 'time passes awful fast, doesn't it Mr. Murray!' I said 'no shit, man!' He said, 'well, I'm 76 now' and I said 'shit, I'm 67 in September!' And when we started we were two hip, skinny little guys, you know it was the handsomest trio in town, the light-brown-skinned buddies, you know, so the girls loved it, Cecil had chicks after him, Jimmy, I had chicks after me, it was great! We were like the cocoa-cream trio! [laughing] It was really great, and I'm happy to have my strength and talking to Cecil, we talked about high blood pressure and weight, we talk about them things nowadays, I plan to give him a call maybe if possible see him when I'm there, just for five or ten minutes.

And you know, just the fact that this world of new music exists is very present and exuberating for me, all the new cats William [Parker] brought, Europeans, all of it I'm very happy about. You know, when I played in London, five months ago or less, I have a trio in London I use, I play Leeds and Newcastle a couple of times a year. They like me a lot in these little towns, which blew my mind you know, all this cheering and jumpin' up and down and shit, they don't even know what they're cheering for or jumping for! And I come to the states and I say 'you come to hear the best' and they say 'yaaay!' And I say in Leeds 'you just like me 'cause my name is Murray. When I'm in Scotland it's MacMurray!' [laughing] It's nice to be liked, you know ' it's not an awful lot of money, but God willing you know, it's enough, I'm very thrifty and know how to use my money. If I ever had any real money I'd just buy a fuckin' boat to sleep on, me and my lady.

AAJ: Shortly after your first trip to Europe, you recorded with some Danish musicians, right?

SM: I met Albert in Sweden and then we went on to Denmark, and I made that record in Denmark, it was just a one-record thing, a group of very good Danish musicians ' incidentally, most of 'em are dead I think, the alto player's dead [Hugh Steinmetz is still alive]. But it's a nice album, considering my age and what I was doing. Like I say, Albert gave me another chance to redevelop my shit, and you can compare it with Elvin when he was with Sonny Rollins as when he was with John. He gave him a chance to make his new way.

AAJ: My question is, how did your meetings with European musicians materialize and how did that affect your conception of the music?

SM: Well, you know, that's strange too, because when we arrived, we also brought avant-garde American music (because we never knew about any European avant-garde) to Europe. For example, there were very good drummers like one playing with Albert [Sune Spangberg]. Most were turned on their noses to hear how I played with Albert because they were Kenny Clarke advocates, Max advocates, they were bebop advocates. A lot of 'em definitely thought I was nuts, but they liked the group as a whole because the total idea needed me, Cecil and Jimmy for our trio, and everything was so great 'cause we were like one hand, you know. And the music was explained, not only played, because in listening to us you could get an explanation of what we were trying to say. And so the really good European musicians came and really appreciated us. Like when we were in Sweden, some great composers into Schoenberg came and took Cecil up to this wonderful studio in the mountains, and I went with them, and they just treated him so great and we'd never been treated like that before here.


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