Few musicians in jazz history have proven more vigorously productive and resourceful than David Murray. During the past 35 years, from the moment he first visited New York as a 20 year-old student, playing in a walkup loft, in 1975, David has careened forward in a cool, collected, rocket-fueled streak. He has released over 150 albums under his own name. Yet more impressive than the numbers is the constancy of two abiding achievements: as a tenor saxophonist, he has perfected an instantly recognizable approach to improvisation that even in its freest flights acknowledges the gravity of a tradition he honors more than most; and he has altered the context for his improvisations as an infinite mosaic of musical challenges and explorations. David Murray goes down as a worthy successor for some of the biggest names in jazz, and he is now contributing to the rise of young talents such as Lafayette Gilchrist, a young pianist who has already been widely acclaimed by the critics.
Be Bop and shut up! An impossible task for the young David, at the time of the free jazz and civil rights movements, the last adventure of the end of century jazzman. Impossible, too, for the son of Baptist parents, discovering the Negro spiritual style in the time of Coltrane and during Ayler’s best period, not to be political right down to his tenor-playing fingertips. David Murray, now in his fifties, has 130 albums to his name and contributions to around a hundred other recordings as a guest artist behind him.
At the end of the 1990’s, David Murray was referred to in terms of fusion, of world music, and even of Pan-Africanism, ever since he took on a backwards tour through the Caribbean and the ‘little’ Americas, via South Africa and Senegal. Before setting off on this journey, David Murray jumped the gun somewhat for a jazz musician. Born in Oakland, he grew up in Berkeley and studied with Catherine Murray (his mother, an organist), Bobby Bradford, Arthur Blythe, Stanley Crouch and many others until the 2nd March 1975 when he left Ponoma College in Los Angeles for New York, which he made his base. In New York, he met many new musicians and musical styles: Anthony Braxton, Don Cherry, Julius Hemphill … Within Ted Daniels’ Energy Band, he worked with Hamiett Bluiett, Lester Bowie and Frank Lowe. In 1976, after a first European tour, David Murray set up one of his mythical groups, the World Saxophone Quartet with Oliver Lake, Hamiett Bluiett and Julius Hemphill. From Jerry Garcia to Max Roach, via Randy Weston and Elvin Jones, David Murray continued working with ever more artists and making ever more recordings.