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Drummer Sunny Murray Dies at 81

Free-jazz pioneer redefined the role of the kit

The cover of Sunny Murray's self-titled ESP-Disk' release from 1966
The cover of Sunny Murray’s self-titled ESP-Disk’ release from 1966

Sunny Murray, a jazz drummer and percussionist who perhaps more than any other drummer developed a free approach to the kit, died yesterday in a nursing home outside Paris, according to a spokesman for Eremite Records, a label Murray recorded for. He was 81.

Murray created a drumming style that disposed of timekeeping, concentrating his efforts instead on a barrage of pure sound that both liberated soloists from rhythmic restraint and allowed his instrument to become as musical and textural as those on the frontline.

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