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David Murray *
* booking only
For many enthusiasts, David Murray is already a jazz legend, if we look at the number of albums he has recorded, of concerts he has performed and at the number of awards with which his career to date has already been crowned (Grammy Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, Bird Award, Danish JazzPar Prize…). However, just over a quarter of a century into his career, his music still expresses the verve and inspiration of youth, throughout a career which is prolific as much in terms of output as in terms of musical orientation (from the World Saxophone Quartet, of which he is one of the founders, to his octet, not forgetting his big band and the encounter with the Gwo Ka from Guadeloupe, amongst many other groups and creations), all of it with the greatest musicians. 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. From 1978 onwards, he entered into a period of intense creativity, one flexible grouping of musicians following on from another.
At the same time, he was writing film music (‘W Dubois’, 1989, ‘Dernier Stade’, 1996 and ‘Karmen Gaye’ in 2000), working with the ‘Urban Bust Women’ dance company (‘Crossing Into Our Promise Land’ in 1998) and regularly working with Joseph Papp of the New York Public Theatre (‘Photograph’, 1978 and ‘Spell Number’ in 1979) and with Bob Thiele, founder of Impulse and Red Baron, who became his producer in 1988 and signed him with Columbia. Thiele produced more than ten of his albums on Red Baron up until his death in 1997.
David Murray also likes rearranging the works of great composers, as in his project ‘The Obscure Work of Duke Ellington’ in 1997 (arranged for a big band and a 25-piece string orchestra) or his re-transcription of a Paul Gonsalves solo ‘Tribute to Paul Gonsalves’ in 1990 (with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra). More recently, using a decet and 12 strings, he updated the classics of Nat King Cole’s Hispanic songbook with ‘Cole in Spanish’ in 2009.
In addition to this, he has written two operas: ‘The Blackamoor of Peter the Great’ in 2004 for strings and voices, based on a selection of twenty poems by Pushkin, and ‘The Sysiphus Revue’, his 2008 bop opera sung by a gospel choir on an Amiri Baraka libretto.
In 2006, his Black Saint Quartet was reborn with ‘Sacred Ground’, on which Cassandra Wilson can notably be heard. The compositions on this album pay tribute to one of his most auspicious periods with the mythical Italian label Black Saint, and to the republishing of this entire catalogue in digital format on the major digital download sites. This work was moreover followed by the rediscovery of 26 rare tracks recorded on the DIW label, which are now available exclusively for downloading on Emusic, and are a good way for fans to get the measure of the scale of a career which already is dizzying.
In 2010 he will be back out on tour with the Gwo Ka Masters. After giving 200 concerts all around the world during their last tour (2005), the group will set off again to promote their fourth album, ‘The Devil Tried to Kill Me’, recorded in 2007 at the mythical Deb’s Studio in Pointe-à-Pitre with the great Taj Mahal.
At 54 years of age, David Murray has a rosy future ahead of him, and a successful past behind him and, since a glimpse of this exceptional career with a very promising future was felt to be essential, several directors have brought his musical career to the screen, in ‘Speaking in Tongues’, a saga which follows him for ten years from 1978 to 1988 or in ‘Jazzman’, in 1997. In 2007, Arte produced ‘Saxophone Man’, in a reference to the title of the Stanley Croutch play written at the time of Pomona College: a year’s filming from New York to Pointe-à-Pitre, via Oakland and Paris, a year of images which reflect the David Murray of today, a citizen of the world.