The Prize Winner 1991

David Murray | Photo |

American tenor and soprano saxophonist, bass clarinetist, flutist, composer, arranger, and bandleader. Born Berkeley, California, February 19, 1955.

   The second International JAZZPAR Committee singled out that Murray has to a rare extent amalgamated the jazz tradition and free music in his playing without impairing either. In the best moments he transmits deep feelings, power, sometimes ecstasy. Appearing with a number of smaller as well as larger combinations, he has been a major revitalizer of jazz.
   After lessons in ragtime and stride piano Murray started on the saxophone at the age of nine. He played in church with his mother, a renowned gospel pianist, who taught him elementary harmony. Then Murray became interested in R&B and soul, leading groups as a teenager. Soon he started emulating swing and bop tenor saxophonists. During high school, he sat in with experimental bands in the Frisco Bay area. Later he attended college, studying and playing with Bobby Bradford and Arthur Blythe, who introduced him to free jazz. Drummer and faculty member Stanley Crouch also taught him. The two of them journeyed eastward together, ending up doing jazz club concerts in New York. Upon arrival, Murray almost immediately impressed his colleagues, and the press took notice.
   Since the mid-70s, Murray has led his own groups, worked as a sideman, often toured abroad, and been extensively recorded (as leader close to 30 albums). He began his professional career in free music, sitting in with Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, and other masters of that idiom. In 1976 Murray formed the innovative World Saxophone Quartet. Also fronted various combos, an octet, and a big band. Furthermore, Murray has played and recorded with Sunny Murray, James "Blood" Ulmer, James Newton, Wilber Morris, John Hicks, Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition, and John Carter's Clarinet Summit.
   Murray's music is heavily influenced by gospel and blues impressions absorbed during his childhood. Early he took up elements that swing and songs that are structured in a traditional sense. Murray has often been compared with Albert Ayler. But combining inspiration from older musicians like Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and Paul Gonsalves and younger ones like Ayler, Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman, and other avant-gardists, Murray developed a unique voice recognized by its tremendous power and expressiveness. Using to great effect harsh dissonance and leaps to the extremes of the tenor's register, he is a master of building contrasts and climaxes. In later years, working with larger groups, Murray has also manifested his significant abilities as a composer and arranger, Duke Ellington being one of his inspirations. At The JAZZPAR Concerts The Winner and The NJO performed a program of Murray's and Pierre Dørge's compositions and arrangements, several written for the occasion.

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