Mark Murphy's 2018 release Pocketful of Rainbows
(Self Produced, 2018) was a surprise stand-out recording that year. Now, this Mark Murphy is not that
Mark Murphy (1932 -2015), icon of jazz vocals. This Mark Murphy is a singer/songwriter whose 2016 release, Slip Away
(Mini Movie) scored points for one of Downbeat Magazine
's recordings of that year. Murphy returns with Hiding Place
, a slim collection of seven songs, originals mixed with imaginative covers, in keeping with his previous offerings.
Murphy allowed no moss to grow on him as he began recording songs for Hiding Place
, once having finished Pocketful of Rainbows
. The songs were shelved for a time before the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, which provided Murphy the time and introspection to add the finishing touches to the seven selections contained herein. Murphy's music is steeped in the folk singer-songwriter tradition, with his subtle and quiet/savvy guitar and sweetly-stated vocals completely informing his sound.
The style of Murphy's delivery might best be compared to a cross between Michael Franks
and Earl Klugh
, sprinkled with some as-yet-unknown influence approximating honey and Quaaludes. Listen to Murphy's take on Neil Young
's "Harvest" or the Eagles "Best of My Love." This is no knock to Murphy. Murphy proves an equal to Shirley Horn
at being able to slow a song down to its point of stasis (a gross paraphrase of Miles Davis
) while still retaining the sacred pulse of forward motion.
Murphy has the fortunate knack of choosing the right musicians for the job, particularly saxophonist Dayna Stephens
, who provides a languid vibe similar to Brian Travers on UB40's debut Signing Off
(Graduate Records, 1980). Stephens provides a special light touch to the recording, one that infuses and supports Murphy's quiet and determined approach. Bassist Tony Scherr
provides the same support within the rhythm section. His contribution to Paul McCartney
's "Junk" is of equal importance to Murphy's understated guitar. Murphy shares vocals with Alexa Barchini
beautifully and intimately on the hidden McCartney gem . A second Beatles connection is in "Two of Us" from Let It Be
(Apple, 1970), presented as one of the more upbeat pieces in the collection, reminding us of Murphy's added dimensions as an arranger.
While an excellent composer as illustrated in the title song, Murphy's remains outstanding in selecting and transforming cover material. The Police's "Tea in the Sahara" and "Two of Us" may stand as definitive performances of these songs, something like Joe Cocker's "With a Little Help from My Friends." This is a great direction Murphy has chosen. It will be wonderful and welcome to see what happens next.
Hiding Place; Junk; Tea in the Sahara; The Best of My Love; Two of Us; Harvest; 3420.
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