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Tenor Sax Hero David Murray Opens Up About His Journey and His Legacy, on The Checkout

Bruno Bollaert

There’s nothing fake about David Murray.

His authentic voice on tenor saxophone is only bolstered by his fiery sincerity as an improviser. And he’s just as direct in conversation, speaking straight from the heart, and getting right to the point.

Murray, 64, recently released an album titled Blues For Memo (Motéma), in collaboration with the spoken-word poet Saul Williams. Recorded in Istanbul at the urging of Turkish producer Ahmet Uluğ, it features heavy backing by the likes of Orrin Evans on piano and Craig Harris on trombone. Murray and Williams will present the Blues For Memo project on Thursday, in Antwerp, Belgium, as part of the 50th edition of Jazz Middelheim.

On this installment of The Checkout, we’ll hear a taste of this album interspersed with an interview conducted four years ago, in a loft in Lower Manhattan. In this conversation, a small portion of which was originally aired on Jazz Night In America, Murray comes out guns a-blazing, reminiscing about his history and making a claim about his place in the history books.

Credit Bruno Bollaert
David Murray at Jazz Middelheim in 2010

We raced through a range of subjects: His early musical training in the Church of God in Christ; his humble upbringing in Berkley, Calif.; the enduring influence of his father, a sanitation worker who bought his Murray his first saxophones. Murray also touched on his many influences, from Sonny Rollins to Ornette Coleman, as well as his hookup with Williams.

At this year’s Jazz Middelheim, I’m conducting a series of Jazz Talks, including one with Murray and Williams. The other Talks, which will be recorded for future Checkout podcasts, include artists Gerald Clayton, Sam Harris, Eric Harland, Genevieve Artadi, Anneleen Boehme, Kenny Werner and more.

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For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.