David Murray :: Biography

David Murray was onvborn February 19, 1955, in Oakland, California. He was initially influenced by free jazz musicians such as Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp. He gradually evolved a more diverse style in his playing and compositions.

In 1975, David Murray hit New York's jazz scene like a bolt of lightning. As a saxophone soloist, his dynamic tenor achieves a rare orchestral range; his signature "power grooves" are charged with bold altissimo leaps and buzz with purposeful multi-phonic drones. As a dedicated bass clarinetist, he draws deep and surprising revelations on an instrument rarely explored by a master jazz improviser. His art exemplifies the spirit of intense spontaneity, yet his discipline also confirms the value of deeply rooted jazz styles.

David Murray's improvisations on a ballad may spring from the legacy of Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young or Ben Webster. Up tempo musical flights may contain an essence of Mingus, Ayler, or Hendrix in their high octane concepts. R & B, gospel, Motown, African and Latin rhythms and urban influences also figure into the evolution of his jazz. Murray's also a co-founder of the ground-breaking World Saxophone Quartet.

His world class touring ensembles including four duos, a "power" quartet, octet and big band, Murray explores a solid cutting edge of composition and improvisation in every performance. Other creative projects include principal collaborations on a theatrical and movie musical score, a PBS documentary as well as work on a grand jazz opera. As a special guest of the Grateful Dead and The Jerry Garcia Band, he recently electrified two sold-out concerts at Madison Square Garden.

David Murray has recorded 150 albums as a leader. Two recent CDs David Murray: Special Quartet (DIW) and David Murray/Milford Graves(DIW) were voted two of the best jazz recordings of 1993 (Village Voice) His Live at Sweet Basil Vol.ll (Black Saint) was a critic's pick of the decade (Jazziz).

He has recorded or performed with musicians such as Henry Threadgill, James Blood Ulmer, Olu Dara, Tani Tabbal, Butch Morris, Donal Fox, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Sunny Murray (not related), Ed Blackwell, Johnny Dyani, Fred Hopkins, and Steve McCall.

In addition to international touring and compositional projects David Murray's 1993 accomplishments include awards and honors in both critic's and reader's polls in Downbeat, Jazz Times, Jazziz and The Village Voice, a WGBH/PBS show with classical pianist Donald Fox and special appearances at Lincoln Center and The Smithsonian Institute.


In 1980 David Murray was named Village Voice Musician of the Decade.

Murray was honoured with the Bird Award in 1986.

He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1989.

David Murray and his band earned a Grammy Award in 1989 in the Best Jazz Instrumental Group Performance category for Blues for Coltrane: A Tribute to John Coltrane.

In 1991 he was honoured with the Danish Jazzpar Prize.

Newsday named him Musician of the Year in 1993.

In 2016 David Murray, Geri Allen and Terri Lyne Carrington: Power Trio, released the album Perfection.