Paul Murphy grew up in Washington, D.C.. At the age of seven he started studying drums with Gene Krupa and then with Louis Bellson. By age 16 he was playing bebop with Billy Taylor, the Ellington bassist.
After playing jazz and blues on the Washington scene for four years, he left for the West Coast in 1970. There he started playing avant garde in the San Francisco Bay Area, particularly with Mary Anne Driscoll, the singer pianist, and Arthur Baron on tenor sax. In 1974, Jimmy Lyons, Cecil Taylor's legendary alto player, heard Paul play in Oakland and suggested he move to New York. Murphy did so, and became manager of Rashied Ali's loft club Ali's Alley.
In summer 1974 Murphy joined Lyons's group. For the next 8 years Paul played, recorded and toured the USA and Europe with Lyons. During this New York period, he also led his own quintet with Dewey Johnson on trumpet, Jay Oliver on bass, Karen Borca on bassoon, and Mary Anne Driscoll on piano. Paul also played with a spectrum of musicians ranging from Larry Willis and Jaki Byard to Sun Ra and Eddie Gale. Paul has been at the fore front of early Avant-Garde jazz with his remarkable and extraordinary drumming technique. His playing style is quite unique and very much his own.
The blow of Jimmy Lyon's death in 1986 caused Paul to drop out of jazz for a year and a half, a period he spent in Las Vegas playing as a stage drummer. In late 1987 he moved back to the Bay Area, playing mostly avant garde with Glen Spearman on tenor, India Cook on violin and cellist Kash Killion. In 1990, Paul moved back to Washington, D.C., where he has recorded for Mapleshade Records. In the avant garde arena, he has led many recording sessions with pianist Joel Futterman, Jere Carroll, Kash Killion Paul led the historic Trio Hurricane session Suite of Winds in Aug 1986 with Glenn Spearman and William Parker and has recorded with many other top jazz musicians such as Raphe Malik, Hayes Burnett and Henry Letcher to name a few. Paul has continued recording free jazz duo sessions with Larry Willis. Playing in a more straight ahead vein, Paul has done Mapleshade sessions with Clifford Jordan, Ran Blake and Larry Willis plus a number of blues and soul sessions. His recordings Break Away, Excursions and Exposé feature the high-end high energy fusion principals of bebop and avant-garde jazz. Break Away with Paul Murphy, Jere Carroll and Joel Futterman. Excursions with Paul Murphy and Larry Willis, Exposé with Paul Murphy and Larry Willis.