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Dave Burrell Remembers Sunny Murray

Farewell tribute piece by the pianist on the legendary drummer (9.21.36 – 12.7.17)

Cover of Sunny Murray album Perles Noires Vol. 1
Cover of Sunny Murray album Perles Noires Vol. 1

After Sunny Murray left Cecil Taylor’s band, he asked me if he could put his drums in my apartment. We had already played together once, at Slugs’, when I first came to town. And of course I knew his work; I knew that he was rightfully called “the dean of modern drumming.”

I had a $40 walk-up with a bathtub in the kitchen on East Third Street, between First and Second Avenues, and once Sunny got his drums in the corner of that small living room we started playing together every day. He brought the tribalness of the Choctaw Indians, [part of his heritage] from back in Oklahoma. He could get the drums to break glass with his intensity, just off of vibrations. I remember everything sliding off the shelves. His tone would attack you in a way that you could not escape. If you were at the piano, you had to come in with that same kind of commitment.

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