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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Murphy: A Beautiful Friendship: Remembering Shirley Horn

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In his time, vocalist Mark Murphy has been described as hip, cool, swinging, fearless, gruff, and eccentric (among other things). Some-- but most definitely not all--of these terms could also be applied to Shirley Horn. So it's fitting that Murphy should pay tribute to his compatriot, as he does on A Beautiful Friendship: Remembering Shirley Horn, even though Murphy acknowledges that the two vocal legends didn't know each other too well.This four-track vinyl EP (accompanied by a download code) was first envisioned by pianist/arranger George Mesterhazy, who had worked with Horn and Murphy but died before the project ...

ARTIST PROFILES

Mark Murphy: Inside the Mystery

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Beyond its stylistic differentiators, jazz contains what vocalist Mark Murphy calls “a wonderful mystery," a mystery that was fostered in small, regional clubs around the US during the '30s-40s, when Murphy was developing the distinctive vocal style that launched his decades-long career. “I've seen this mysterious quality of jazz set rooms on fire," Murphy attests. “[Rooms] where nothing was going on until the band shuffled up and this musical rhythmic thing would happen right there on the spot." It was Murphy's intuitive grasp of “this musical rhythmic thing" that gave him an early foothold in the ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Slightly After the Fact: Mark Murphy's Once to Every Heart / Marc Johnson's Shades of Jade

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From the usual vantage, singer Mark Murphy's Once to Every Heart and bassist Marc Johnson's Shades of Jade would seem to have little in common, save for the forename of their bandleaders and the fact that they're both on Universal imprints (Verve and ECM respectively). The first is a vocal album of standard ballads backed by more or less traditional arrangements; the second is an instrumental, very much in line with the somber, pensive, and progressive nature of the ECM catalogue.From a much more limited perspective--my own--these two discs are like Siamese twins, having inadvertently paired themselves in ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Mark Murphy at The Iridium, NYC

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Mark Murphy The Iridium New York, New York October 4, 2007

Most folks would probably deem Mark Murphy a bit of an eccentric figure, but it's this very individuality that has marked him as one of the most distinctive jazz singers in the music's history--not only his voice but his whole storytelling persona, his demeanour and delivery. Is Murphy in the throes of early senility, so abstract is his poise? Or is this, as has always been the case, his naturally “stoned" persona, the epitome of hipness and laid-back cool? Don't worry about his ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Murphy: Love is What Stays

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The cover of Mark Murphy's Love is What Stays features a tight close-up of the 75-year-old singer staring unflinchingly into the camera, the ravages of age clear on his face. It's a fitting counterpart to the music inside, which fearlessly confronts the passage of time from the vantage point of one considering his own mortality. Produced in Berlin by trumpeter Till Bronner with lush string arrangements on several tunes, the album covers an astoundingly wide range of material--from Alan Jay Lerner to Johnny Cash to Coldplay--all delivered by Murphy in a whiskey-laced baritone that has grown somewhat ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Mark Murphy at Blues Alley, Washington, DC

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Mark Murphy Blues Alley Washington, DC July 11, 2007

I may not be the most aggressive advocate of Blues Alley, but the intimate eighteenth-century carriage house in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC has been host to countless jazz legends for over forty years. The lackluster food, indifferent service and an increasingly commercial booking agenda can easily be a disincentive to all but the most intrepid jazz listener. However, it remains one of the few venues in the city where vocalist Mark Murphy can perform in relative comfort and intimacy. In a rare, and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Murphy: Once To Every Heart

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Murphy: Bop for Miles

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Simply put, Mark Murphy is one of the great jazz singers. His musical gifts remain prodigious, his depth of expression a model for all who practice this art, his recordings reside in the treasure trove of vocal jazz. On his current recording, Bop for Miles , Murphy is in top form, ebullient and able to carry off any idea with ease. Herein, though, lies the problem. When he unleashes the full scope of his musical talent without tether to his expressive side, too often the songs suffer, losing their individuality and their shape. This is an odd tribute ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Murphy: Memories of You

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Murphy: What a Way to Go

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What a Way to Go is another in a long line of masterful CDs by the master of vocal jazz, Mark Murphy. Ballads predominate, and the arrangements by Larry Fallon are lush and make good use of synthesizers to make up for the lack of a string orchestra.

One of the best things about Mark Murphy is that you can always expect the singer to deliver the unexpected. Sometimes ballads swing and time charts are slowed down to ballad tempos. A case in point is the ballad “I Fall in Love Too Easily” which features an intense Murphy ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Murphy: Bop for Kerouac

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Bop for Kerouac is one of Mark Murphy’s best albums, and that’s saying a lot because over the years he has recorded some of the finest and most innovative jazz vocal albums of all time. It’s a concept album that is focused on the aesthetic of the Beats and features vocalise adaptations of Charlie Parker tunes and solos as well as texts taken from the writings of Jack Kerouac, particularly the novel On the Road.

The album starts off with “Be-Bop Lives” which most jazz fans will immediately recognize as “Boplicity” from the seminal Birth of the Cool ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Murphy: I'll Close My Eyes

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Every album by Mark Murphy is a gem and I'll Close My Eyes is no exception. Starting with the title track, Murphy displays his uncanny sensitivity to the relationship between words and music by delivering a very emotional reading of the song's verse, a text that is overlooked by most performers. Added to the performance's appeal is a tasty obbligato by Brazilian trumpeter Claudio Roditi.

The song “If" is all too often a staple of karaoke bars and Holiday Inn lounge singers, but in Murphy's hands it becomes a heartfelt dissertation on the conditional nature of love. And when it ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Murphy: The Latin Porter

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During the course of this live album, Mark Murphy observes that “everything old is becoming new again. Even me, folks." Certainly, the 68-year-old singer shows no signs of slowing down. He recently won the 2000 Downbeat Magazine Reader's Poll as Male Vocalist of the Year, and he finished second in the voting for the Hall of Fame. In a genre that usually measures the gap between records in years, Mr. Murphy has released two CDs in 2000, Some Time Ago on the HighNote label and this collection, The Latin Porter, on Ben Sidran's Go Jazz label.

The Latin Porter functions ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Murphy: Some Time Ago

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A preface to this review is order. I’m something of a curmudgeonly customer when it comes to jazz vocals. I can readily dig on classic (and admittedly popular) singers such as Holiday, Fitzgerald, Vaughn, Simone and so on. But when it comes to male vocalists, not only are the numbers comparatively smaller, but the pool of contenders seems to my ears spread far thinner. A few notables, such as Bill Henderson and Johnny Hartman, come to mind but even these illustrious crooners had their share of off days. The human voice may be the most complex of all musical instruments, ...



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