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Interviews

Sunny Murray

By Published: October 14, 2003
SM: That's right, I had Giblet 1 and Giblet 2. The original Giblet, a lot of people don't know it, the record has been out for quite a while, but it's on a record I made with Cecil and it was called The World of Cecil Taylor [1961]. And Nat Hentoff was the owner of the company then, Candid, and he really didn't like what I was doing and he didn't understand it, and I got a little drug with him, and they said don't worry about it, he can yardstick his mouth 'but'but'but.' And when we recorded I played two tracks, on one I played drum and tympani, and somehow I don't know how these damn tympanis ended up at Cecil's, but anyway, we recorded that and then when the record came out, I went to the record shop on 8th Street, my buddy worked there, I had $99 [from the session] which ain't a lot now but it was then, and I waited there and the records came in and Sunny Murray was not on the records. I cried, I was so upset. And I was comin' out the store, going towards 6th Ave., and who's on the bus in the window, but Nat Hentoff. And of course I ran alongside the bus and cursed a green streak. And he was very embarrassed, and so I called Cecil and he said 'that's pretty rotten,' and so he called Nat and Nat recanted and sent one record with me on it. And I lost that record hanging out with some amphetamine-heads [laughing]! I was so proud of my record and went hanging out with them, and they were smoking and drinking, and then the next thing I know ' where's my record! [laughing]

And so about 17 years ago, Buell Neidlinger called to me from California and asked me about that record. 'Cause Buell was on that record I think. And he said they wanted to [reissue] that record (it's really true, that was the first avant-garde record on the scene). And I said, you know I really never got paid for that record. And Buell said, 'listen Sunny, this ain't about no money,' Buell always had this little-rich-guy's attitude, and I said, 'well you can send me two bucks (you know, I was really grubbin' for my family).' And Buell said somethin' made me real mad, so I said 'make Denis the first drummer, make whoever you want the first drummer.' And so they put the record out, I think [Michael] Cuscana had something to do with the production. And that was really the first record I made; after that we did Into the Hot, and then we went to Europe and made Nefertiti and Montmartre. I was really enjoying that period developing my style.

AAJ: So let me get this straight; it was your playing but Denis Charles' name was on the records?

SM: Well, they used some tracks with Denis on them and I even heard one of the tracks and people thought it was Billy Higgins or something. Because, you see, Buell tried to get me replaced. When Cecil decided to use me, Buell decided to try and keep the band that was going on. But for certain unspeakable reasons [laughs]'

AAJ: Well, he was probably so used to playing with Denis he didn't understand how to play with you.

SM: Yeah, he didn't really understand where Cecil had went on total freedom. You know, when I started playing with Cecil, we played things like 'Love for Sale' and 'Flamingo,' and then he started to redefine and develop the things he was playing. When I started rehearsing with Cecil, it was an accident because the keys and the locks fit the same doors. And I just accidentally found that out because one day my wife and I was comin' home from the movies to our loft and somebody was in the loft, and they were in the apartment eatin' and shit, and I was ready to fight. I opened the door, and it was Cecil's father! And he was struck 'cause he thought it was Cecil's front across the hall! So of course I was happy to see him, I told him 'don't move' and my wife made him some tea and' this is where Cecil told me to get my drums and we rehearsed ' and this is the gods' truth ' somewhere between seven, five, six, eight hours a day for almost a year. He didn't work that year but one job and I was very impressed, but he didn't know what to do [for a bassist], and Buell did the last job with them [Cecil and Denis]. I was very impressed, he came back and said he couldn't do it then. The next gig was us two and Jimmy Lyons. He joined that steady rehearsal too, it was down on Dye Street and there was nothin' there but ghosts so we could play all we wanted to, that was how we began and I didn't know where we were going.


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