Sunny Murray - drums; Dave Burrell - piano; Ted Daniels - trumpet, flugelhorn; Carlos Ward - alto sax; Luqman Abdul Lateer - tenor sax; Alan Silva - bass; Norris Jones - bass
Drummer-bandleader Sunny Murray hit the stage at Freebody Park with such gale force intensity that it must've caused half the assembled faithful at the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival to fall off their collective chairs. With a crew of powerhouse players in pianist Dave Burrell, trumpeter Ted Daniels, alto saxophonist Carlos Ward and little-known tenor saxophonist Luqman Abdul Lateer, along with the two-bass tandem of Alan Silva and Norris Jones (later known to avant garde jazz fans as Sirone), Murray unleashed a torrent of dissonance, dense chordal clusters, and unbridled group improvisation rooted in a latter day Coltrane free jazz aesthetic. And Murray shaped the proceedings with deftly shifting rhythms, a liberated over-the-barline attitude and a percussive colorist approach to the kit.
Both lengthy performances here are extended Murray compositions that appeared on his BYG Actuel album of the time, Sunshine (recorded a month after this Newport appearance). "Red Cross" is a sonic blitzkrieg that reaches shards of splintered glass intensity on the sheer abandon of horn players Daniels, Ward and Lateer while "Flower Trane" carries more of a subdued requiem vibe and features the keening tenor sax of Lateer wailing over the top.
A disciple of avant garde pioneer Cecil Taylor, Sunny Murray was one of the first to liberate drummers from a traditional timekeeping role, promoting a more inventive, stream-of-consciousness approach to the kit. Born James Marcellus Arthur "Sunny" Murray in Idabel, Oklahoma in 1936, Murray spent his youth in Philadelphia before moving in 1959 to New York City, where he began playing the fiercely uncompromising pianist Taylor (he appears on Taylor's 1960 recording Air and on a 1962 live recording, Nefertiti, the Beautiful One Has Come).
While touring through Europe with Taylor, Murray met the iconoclastic tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler, later joining his group and appearing on Ayler's 1965 free jazz manifesto, Spiritual Unity. He also worked with Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, and John Tchicai and recorded his first albums as a leader in 1965, Sunny's Time Now. Following the release of 1966's Sunny Murray Quintet, he was named Down Beat magazine's New Star for 1967. In 1968, Murray traveled to France, where he played with Archie Shepp and recorded as a leader for the Affinity and BYG Actuel labels. His appearance at the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival marks George Wein's continuing support for the avant garde. (Wein had booked the Cecil Taylor Quartet as early as 1957 and in 1965 devoted an entire afternoon concert to "The New Thing in Jazz: A Study of the Avant Garde," which featured performances by the Jazz Composers Orchestra, Archie Shepp Quartet, Paul Bley Trio, and Cecil Taylor Quintet). (Milkowski)