James Marcellus Arthur Sunny Murray (born Idabel, Oklahoma in 1936) is one of the pioneers of the free jazz style of drumming.
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 He featured on the influential 1962 concerts in Denmark released as Nefertiti the Beautiful One Has Come.
He 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
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.
He later recorded under his own name for ESP-Disk and then when he moved to Europe for BYG Actuel.