Look at any of the musical greats and the first thing you’ll find is, it’s not music that defines the artist but the artist that defines the music. Elvis created rock and roll, Kraftwerk created techno, The Sex Pistols created punk and NWA created gangsta rap. Truly great musicians take a musical style and revitalize it, turning it into something refreshing and new. David Murray is not only a great musician but the master innovator, a man who makes jazz transcend its cultural and historical boundaries. Taking time out to take five, the relaxed Mr. Murray spoke in calming tones on where he and Jazz are at.
Where are you going musically at the minute?
Well, I’m kinda on a roll at the moment; I’m working with The Gwo Ka Masters – Guadeloupian drums with eight or nine basic polyrhythms. I’m gonna be interjecting over the top and there’s gonna be trumpets, guitars – real fresh guitars, less lead and more instrumental – its gonna be a real jazz-fusion thing. I mean, when we talk we can’t understand each other, we speak different languages. But when we play, that’s a whole different story.
Where do you think jazz is going?
It’s going where I’m taking it! (David starts laughing) No, I mean, I think we gotta restart it. There’s a lot a people coming outta New York with a post be-bop attitude, when really you should be trying to do something creative. Try and demonstrate What do YOU have to say with your instrument’ … The greats didn’t want to play and be accomplished in New York, they just played, to be radical, to innovate. That’s jazz.
What are you trying to achieve with your recent collaborations?
Well really, I want to make a common ground between musicians from all backgrounds … It’s about a higher learning curve. Y’know, they say ‘jazz is the teacher, funk is the preacher’, well it’s kinda like that for classical. Classical is the teacher and pop is the preacher … No really! I mean you have to have things keep influencing each other or it’s not gonna be new and interesting.
David, you’re considered one of the masters of jazz improvisation. I read an article about the link between improvisation jazz and schizophrenia – like the originator, Buddy Bolden, what do you think?
Well, in ‘Orleans people talk about Buddy in hushed tones, (long pause) well, for two reasons really. One because he was just so, so, great, and the other because he chased his mom with … or something … or rather …well … I don’t know … but, yeah I mean he was bi-polar. I know they don’t have the drugs that they do now, but the link? … Well I don’t know about that. I mean the level-headed solo is always gonna be the best one … You get a crazy person to play and they’re just gonna play crazy! (We both laugh) But I don’t know … all the musicians I know, are just about sanest people I’ve met.