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David Murray

This page features a series of posts on the jazz saxophonist David Murray. It’s part of a long-term project to chronicle and analyse Murray’s work. If you’re a Murray fan I hope you find what I have to say straightforward and interesting, even if some of it is written for academic publication.

Firstly, there’s the drafts to a fairly lengthy analysis of Murray’s career. This is followed by analyses of his recorded output. I’ve identified getting on for 200 LPs, so it’s going to take time to build up the complete set. After that there’s some posts on rather random aspects of Murray’s career usually written in response to assumptions about Murray’s career that I find unconvincing. As I get round to it you’ll also be able to read some interviews with people who offer interesting insights into Murray’s career.

David Murray: the making of a progressive jazz musician

These are drafts of an article that should be coming into publication soon. They aren’t polished, finished pieces, but the final article needed cutting down, so these drafts often feature lengthier sections on matters that interest me, even if the overall argument is harder to follow.

First here’s a discussion of the idea of progress in jazz discourse using David Murray (and a comparison with Coleman Hawkins) as an example.

Coleman Hawkins and David Murray, and the idea of the progressive musician

The next three links are to a full version of the article, which extends and distills earlier drafts. This is not the final version, which has now been published in the Jazz Research Journal. If you want more detail on some aspects it is worth reading the drafts as well.

Just click on the link to go to the topic.

David Murray: the making of a progressive jazz musician (Part One)
David Murray: the making of a progressive jazz musician (Part Two)
David Murray: the making of a progressive jazz musician (Part Three)

The drafts:

David Murray Part One
David Murray Part Two
David Murray Part Three

If you want to find out more the bibliography should give you plenty more to read.

David Murray – I am a Jazzman

Information of a French TV documentary about Murray.

David Murray’s recorded output

My ultimate aim here is to produce a detailed survey of Murray’s whole recording career. You’ll find surveys of different decades of his work, and I’m building up a series of posts based upon close analysis and contextual discussion of his recordings. I’m starting with the earlier and hard to find releases.

I’ve also posted the first of a series of guides to Murray’s prodigious output if you want to buy and listen to more. I’ll extend and add to them over time. Here’s what’s available so far:

A listener’s guide to David Murray’s records in the 1990s

I’ve been collecting Murray records for a few decades now, and recently I came to believe that had had all but a few of his recordings as leader or co-leader. This is quite an achievement because there are around 150 of them. You can count down the final additions to my Murray record collection through these posts:



The records

Ted Daniel: In The Beginning (featuring David Murray) 1975
Live At The Peace Church 1976
Flowers For Albert 1976
Live At The Lower Manhattan Ocean Club  Vol.1& 2 1977
Solomon’s Sons 1977
Conceptual Saxophone 1978
track by track: ‘Home’ ‘Come Sunday’ ‘Flowers for Albert’

Organic Saxophone

Sur-Real saxophone 1978
Last of the Hipman 1978
Wilber Morris / David Murray / Dennis Charles: Wilber Force 1983    
Clarinet Summit In Concert at the Public Theater Vol. I/II 1984/5
Kahil El’Zabar with David Murray Golden Sea 1989
David Murray & Milford Graves: Real Deal 1992
Popular misconceptions

You can also read about Murray’s comments about Albert Ayler as an influence (he isn’t much of one) in a series of posts

Does Flowers for Albert suggest Murray was influenced by Ayler?

Flowers for Albert (reprised)

Misunderstanding Flowers for Albert

Flowers for Albert (yes again)


I have conducted a series of interviews with people involved in Murray’s career. As I write them up you’ll be able to read them here:

Interview with John Jack owner of Cadillac Records in London. Read it here.


1. D.D. Jackson - July 16, 2007

Kudos to you for compiling all of this wonderful Murray info. As his pianist for several years I can definitely say that they were the most eye-opening and instructive phases of my musical development. David is truly one of a kind!

2. Michael Leddy - September 18, 2007

It’s great to see so much commentary on David Murray here. I’ve been listening to him on disc for years and was lucky enough to hear him (with John Hicks, Fred Hopkins, and Ed Blackwell) in the mid-1980s in Cambridge, Mass. Unforgettable.

3. carlos - March 24, 2008

Great job!!! I will add a link to these pages from David M official myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/davidmurraymusic

4. Ron Naveen - August 4, 2008

I’m a somewhat religious follower of WALL OF SOUND, for sure the best place on the web to get my David Murray fix. Thanks so, so much!

Glad to hear you are almost there — bagging all of DM’s recordings. I’m still a few behind you, but pleased to know there’s another DM obsessive in existence.

Which leads me to this:

I’d love to see you instigate an online colloquy asking the simple question:

What is David Murray’s BEST solo?

For almost as long as I can remember, my absolute fave has been Last Of The Hipmen on the Blues For Coltrane disk. I never tire of listening to this track, though, obviously, many others compete.

So . . . to get this ball rolling, hopefully, let me simply list the 18 tracks presently in my select DM iPod mix (including the aforementioned Last Of The Hipmen):

Calle Estrella Murray / Hicks / Marsalis / Drummond / Muhammad 100 7:08 Fast Life (1991)
Intuitively Murray / Hicks / Marsalis / Drummond / Muhammad 100 8:57 Fast Life (1991)
Doni’s Song Murray / Ali / Smith / Morris / Running 100 7:01 Body And Soul (1993)
Off Season Murray / Hicks / Workman / Blackwell 100 10:56 Morning Song (1983)
Last Of The Hipmen Murray / Tyner / McBee / Haynes 100 8:20 Blues For Coltrane (1987)
Lester (For Lester Young) David Murray Octet 100 8:28 Hope Scope (1987)
Song From The Old Country Murray / Pullen / Cyrille / Franks 100 7:02 Shakill’s Warrior (1991)
Paul Gonzalves David Murray Big Band / cond. “Butch” Morris 100 17:38 David Murray Big Band (1991)
At The Cafe Central Murray / Pullen / Cyrille / Franks 100 10:53 Shakill’s Warrior (1991)
Hurray for Herbie Murray / Waldron 100 7:57 Silence (1991)
The Ebullient Duke Murray / El’Zabar / Hopkins 100 9:36 Love Outside Of Dreams (1997)
Spooning Murray / Hicks / Blackwell / Drummond 100 7:33 Ming’s Samba (1998)
Flor Na Paul Murray / Jackson / Newton / Drummond / Hart / Kiavue / Lockel Landreseau 100 8:44 Creole (1998)
Tonte Vontarde Murray / Jackson / Newton / Drummond / Hart / Kiavue / Lockel Landreseau 100 7:28 Creole (1998)
Aerol’s Change David Murray Latin Big Band 100 7:19 Now Is Another Time (2003)
Mambo Dominica David Murray Latin Big Band 100 9:31 Now Is Another Time (2003)
Sparkle Murray / Gilchrist / Drake / Shahid 100 6:42 Waltz Again (2006)
Pierce City Murray / Gilchrist / Drummond / Cyrille 100 9:05 Sacred Ground (2007)

Admittedly, this mix changes frequently. It’s just a snapshot for today.

Would love to know your — and others’ — faves.

So many choices, so little time.

Hope your summer’s going well.

All best,
Ron (Naveen)

5. wallofsound - August 4, 2008

Thanks, Ron. I’m glad you like the David Murray posts.

I’m listening to Last Of The Hipmen on the Blues For Coltrane record as I write. I’ve always been fascinated by this record, because Murray refrained from exploring Coltrane for so long. In early interviews he emphasises his determination to find another sound. Here he explores the Coltrane legacy without being a copyist. Like all his best this leaves me gulping for air, exhilarated by the emotional heights. This band, and especially Tyner, seem to push him hard.

I suppose it’s not strange that some of his best solos are to be found on the tracks dedicated to other sax players, and I notice you picked some of those. I’ve always loved his ballads as well.

I thought I’d go for some of his less obvious ones, so my picks for today are:
Chelsea Bridge on The Hill (1986) for its evolving gorgeousness;
The Hill on Sweet Lovely (1980) for sheer inventiveness;
Mbizo on Deep River (1988) for shout-out loud magnificence;
Have You Seen Sideman? on Death Of A Sideman (1992) for lament;
Freedom Jazz Dance on James Carter’s Live At Baker’s Keyboard Lounge (2004) for what happens when Murray gets into a blowing competition, on a riff, in front of an audience. All wonderful!

6. Alexander Cohen - December 9, 2008

I’ve been a DM fan since seeing him perform at the NorthSea Jazz Festival in 1999. He performed a program called The Obscure Work of Duke Ellington which feature Craig, Hamiet and Carmen Bradford among his group. The music was swinging and just so very much in the pocket. Does anyone know if this music was recorded or if DM has made a recording of this great music? Thanks for your reply! Alex

wallofsound - December 9, 2008

I have to admit I wasn’t at the festival, and hadn’t heard about the programme before. I thought I’d been to each of his tours around this date as well, so I wonder if it was a one off special. More importantly, I haven’t come across a recoding of this, though Murray has had a fascination with Ellington, and particularly with Paul Gonsalves sax playing for a long time. I’ll post your question at a couple of other blogs to see if anyone else knows.

7. DonNewcomb - January 17, 2009

I saw Murray at the Bohemian Caverns last night, backed by an organist and a drummer from one of the local AME churches. Hearing “Flowers for Albert” with that instrumentation was something else! Beautiful. It made me forget all about the small, blase crowd, half of which apparently weren’t even there for the music and having loud yet inane conversations during the show.

wallofsound - January 18, 2009

Thanks for letting me know. According to the venue (http://www.bohemiancaverns.com/calendar/publicevent.cfm?event_id=15516) he played four sets in celebration of Martin Luther King Day, and was joined by his son, Mingus Murray, on guitar. I always love his organ trio work.

8. David Murray – I am a Jazzman « Wall of Sound - September 7, 2009

[…] David Murray […]

9. Michael Dennis - September 1, 2010

Mr Murray,
My name is Michael Dennis The Windycity Whistler/Whistlefexxer I was Mgr. for Joel Brandon for a vary short time while he was in LA ,he was also a mentor and a dear friend to me. until his passing. I promised Joel I would make new marks in the world of whistling. I know I will never measure up to the master of the Whistling game Joel
Brandon but I’m working hard on my craft. If you have a spot anytime Mr Murray feel free to call me. and please take a look at my website http://www.michaeldennisnujazzwhistler.com My new CD coming soon (Miles From The Sky)thank you for your Music. Sincerely, Michael Dennis

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