Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Murray grew up in California with a strong church background, and he started playing alto sax at age nine and tenor while he was in high school. In college he studied with Bobby Bradford, Arthur Blythe (from whom he first learned free jazz), and Stanley Crouch, who played drums in Murray's trio when Murray first went to New York in 1975. Since the mid-'70's he has been very active in a variety of groups. He formed the World Saxophone Quartet with Oliver Lake, Julius Hemphill, and Hamiet Bluiett in the mid-70's, has led and recorded with his own big band and small groups, and played in Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition. Other co-workers have been Sunny Murray, James "Blood" Ulmer, the late Ed Blackwell, McCoy Tyner, Fred Hopkins, and Andrew Cyrille. In the 1980's, John Carter called on Murray to be in his Clarinet Summit, which released two albums with Murray. His bass clarinet is perhaps best heard here. His two most obvious qualities are an erotic vibrato reminiscent of Coleman Hawkins and a very powerful, percussive slap-tonguing technique, which is quite effective in Clarinet Summit and the World Saxophone Quartet, both of which lack rhythm sections. His styles on tenor and bass clarinet are virtually the same. Murray has managed to fuse many styles of jazz improvisation into one all-encompassing approach. He can blend bebop, post-bop, free, and even r & b and gospel and make it all sound natural and fluent.