Few musicians in jazz history have been more vigorously productive and resourceful than tenor sax player David Murray. He has released more than 150 albums over the course of four decades, at times putting out up to a dozen albums per year. His use of the circular breathing technique enables him to play astonishingly long phrases, and he remains a tireless innovator. Born in Oakland, he grew up in Berkeley and studied music from an early age with his mother, organist Catherine Murray, as well as Bobby Bradford, Arthur Blythe, Stanley Crouch and others. After graduating from Berkeley schools he went to Pomona College but dropped out in 1975, moving to New York, where he roomed with Crouch and was at the heart of the underground “loft jazz” scene. He led numerous bands at jazz clubs around the city (including a big band at the Knitting Factory), and was a founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet. In the 1990s, Murray relocated to Europe and now splits his time between Paris and Portugal. His latest album is Perfection, with pianist Geri Allen and percussionist Terri Lyne Carrington.
Murray’s mother died in 1968 when he was just 13, and in 1969 he was Willard’s student body president. At a time that must have been turbulent both politically and personally for Murray, he showed his cool in a short essay written for the school yearbook about the desegregation movement: “We could all get along with integration if everyone would be cool and naturally do their own thing.”