James Marcellus Arthur "Sunny" Murray was born in Idabel, Oklahoma on September 21, 1936, grew up in Philadelphia and started on the drums at 9.
He moved to NYC at 1956 at 19 and within two years was an in demand bebop drummer sitting in with James Moody, Jackie McLean and Donald Byrd.
In 1959, he became neighbor to and creative collaborator with pianist Cecil Taylor.
A singular drummer who put texture before traditional time keeping, Murray collaborated with Taylor and Albert Ayler on some of their iconic work.
“I wanted to get more from the beat than just the beat,” he told writer Dan Warburton in 2000.
Despite his "avant-garde" approach to the drums Murray considered himself part of the jazz tradition. “I’m proud to be a jazz musician,” he told Jason Weiss author of "Always in Trouble: The Oral History of ESP Disk"
Yes, that is Art Blakey, Max Roach, and Elvin Jones on the bandstand with him on the second number.
To me this collaboration with Jimmy Lyons recorded live at Jazz Festival Willisau Saturday, August 30, 1980 was THE sound of 1980 in New York City (well my NYC in 1980 at least.)
Jimmy Lyons, alto sax
Sunny Murray, drums
John Lindberg, bass