Sunny Murray Memorial
Saturday, February 24, 2018
6:00 PM

Clef Club of Jazz & Performing Arts
738 S. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA
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Sunny Murray (1936-2017) was one of the early avant-garde’s most inventive and influential drummers, doing a great deal to establish the role of the drums in free improvisation. Although Murray could swing as hard as anyone, he often abandoned the drums’ traditional timekeeping role. Born in 1936, Murray performed at first with traditional artists like Red Allen and Willie “The Lion” Smith, but soon branched out into more adventurous territory with Jackie McLean and Ted Curson. His big break, however, came when he joined Cecil Taylor’s group in 1959, which allowed him to improvise at a far more advanced level.

While touring Europe with Taylor, Murray met Albert Ayler, and wound up joining his band in 1964. Through 1967, Murray appeared on most of the saxophonist’s greatest free jazz sessions. He also worked with Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, and John Tchicai, and made his first albums as a leader with 1965’s Sunny’s Time Now (for Jihad) and 1966’s Sunny Murray Quintet (for the seminal ESP), the latter of which helped him win Down Beat’s New Star award. In 1968, Murray traveled to France, where he played with Archie Shepp and recorded as a leader for Affinity and BYG Actuel. Upon returning to the U.S. in 1971, Murray settled in Philadelphia and formed a group called the Untouchable Factor, which he led off and on through varying lineups.

Read the New York Times obituary here.


  1. DJ Aaron Levinson: The music of Sunny Murray
  2. Elliott Levin-Dwight James Duo
  3. Spoken Tribute: Mangaliso Davis
  4. Quartet: Muhammed Ali, Raymond A. King, Terry Lawson, Howard Cooper
  5. Spoken Tribute: Connie Murray
  6. Quintet: Monette Sudler, Alan Nelson, Farnell Newton, Bobby Zankel, Jamaaladeen Tacuma
  7. Spoken Tribute & Acknowledgement Khan Jamal
  8. Philly Loves Sunny: Flash Mob (Julius Masri, conduction)

Intermission // DJ Aaron Levinson: The music of Sunny Murray

  1. Spoken Tribute: Haniff Murray
  2. The Watsun Intergenerational Ensemble
  3. Spoken Tribute: Henry Grimes
  4. Quartet: Odean Pope, Dave Burrell, Henry Grimes, Kevin Diehl + Special Guest TBA