It only takes a few moments for Mark Murphy to remind listeners why he's been one of the top vocalists in jazz for a generation. His new CD is Memories of You,
a set of songs associated with the late, great Joe Williams.
It's not so much Murphy's voice, which is fine, if a little thin, as it is those intangibles that separate a singer from the pack: timing, delivery, confidence, and that unique ability to make everything swing. Over the years, Murphy has honed those skills to the point where he can swing almost effortlessly, conveying more with a whisper than most singers can with a shout. Just check, for example, his hushed approach to Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me" here. Less, with Murphy at the mic, is definitely more.
Murphy's particular brand of beatnik bebop has little in common with Williams' deep Basie blues, and he's wise to shake up his interpretations of Williams' best-known tunes, like "In the Evenin'," which he takes at a slower than slow pace, and "Everyday (I Have the Blues)," which he gives a full-on funk treatment. With backing by an exceptionally sympathetic quartet (Norman Simmons on piano, Paul Bollenbeck on guitar, Grady Tate on drums and Darryl Hall on bass), Murphy delivers a master class in jazz singing and one of the best albums of his career.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York
Personnel: Bill Easley - Soprano and Tenor Sax;
Mark Murphy - Vocals;
Norman Simmons - Piano;
Grady Tate - Drums;
Paul Bollenback - Guitar;
Darryl Hall - Bass.