How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Mark Murphy just gets better and better, to steal a phrase, like an elegant wine. And he is fearless. In his distinguished career, he's covered it all: blues, Latin, contemporary pop, songbooks (most notably Cole Porter, Joe Williams, Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields). And he still remains one of the foremost interpreters of the Great American Songbook. The ballads-only session Once to Every Heart, his first offering on Verve, finds him at the top of his art.
He revives the wonderful "I'm Through with Love in a reflective performance laced with sadness, restraining his impulse to use his formidable musical prowess just for show. In the opening chorus of the medley "When I Fall in Love/My One and Only Love, Murphy calls on his abundant technique as he isolates and caresses each word, still never sacrificing the story.
At this stage in his career, all the hallmarks of his style are on display, even in this low-key setting. He remains one of the most surefooted singers in the jazz pantheon. His rhythmic sense is impeccable, allowing him to sing lines and phrases that are unattainable by most other singers; his intonation is precise yet not clinical; his melodic sensibility allows him to use a song's harmonies to reimagine and transform melodies; and he is fearless emotionally, unafraid to dig deeply into a song's story to mine its essence. Murphy even provides his own piano accompaniment on "Do Nothing Till You Here from Me and is responsible for the piano and horn arrangements.
The lesser-known songs"Our Game, Paul Weston's seldom-heard gem "Once to Every Heart, and Murphy's own "I Know You from Somewhere fit this brooding session perfectly. He also resurrects "Bein' Green, a song that's already been given stellar performances by Ray Charles and Shirley Horn.
Murphy has chosen a strong supporting cast. Nan Schwartz's string arrangements set the songs off beautifully. Producer Till Bronner's trumpet and flugelhorn provide low-key counterpoint with the singer; they both work hand in hand with the sturdy, sensitive rhythm team of pianist Frank Chastenier and bassist Christian von Kaphengst.
Once to Every Heart, a masterful ballad recording replete with great songs, unfolds with grace and passion. The only question remaining is this: where will Mark Murphy turn for his next session?
Track Listing: I'm Through with Love; When I Fall in Love/My One and Only Love; Skylark/You Don't Know
What Love Is; Our Game; I Know You from Somewhere; Bein' Green; Once to Every Heart; It
Never Entered My Mind; Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me; Love Is Here to Stay.
Personnel: Mark Murphy: vocals, piano (9); Till Bronner: trumpet and flugelhorn, producer; Frank
Chastenier: piano (except 9); Christian von Kaphengst: acoustic bass (1,3-5,7,9); Nan
Schwartz: orchestra arranger and conductor; string orchestra (1,3-5,7,9)