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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 materialfrom Alan Jay Lerner to Johnny Cash to Coldplayall delivered by Murphy in a whiskey-laced baritone that has grown somewhat gruffer over the years but has not lost its youthful vigor. Among many highlights are Murphy's breakneck bebop improvisations on the opening version of "Stolen Moments (one of three takes on the Oliver Nelson classic with lyrics by Murphy); a loose, darting treatment of the standard "Angel Eyes ; a guest solo by another ageless jazz wonder, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, on "My Foolish Heart ; the glacially slow, but heartfelt interpretation of Cash's "So Doggone Lonesome ; and the spoken-word musings of an aging artist in "The Interview. Murphy's impeccable timing and musical intelligence save even tunes like "Once Upon A Summertime and the closing "Did I Really Live that might come off as maudlin in the hands of lesser singers.
It's a stirring performance and a capstone to the career of one of the most important jazz vocalists of his generation.
Track Listing: Stolen Moments; Angel Eyes; My Foolish Heart; So Doggone Lonesome; What If; Interview; Once Upon a Summertime; Stolen Moments (1st Reprise); Love Is What Stays; Stolen Moments (2nd Reprise); Too Late Now; Blue Cell Phone; Did I Ever Really Live.
Personnel: Mark Murphy: vocal, piano; Frank Chastenier: piano; Christian Von Kaphengst: bass (1-7, 9-11, 13); Sebastian Merk: drums (1-7, 9-11, 13); Peter Weniger: tenor saxophone (1, 6, 10); Kal Bruckner: guitar (1, 4); Gregoire Peters; flute, bass clarinet (1-2, 10, 13); Till Bronner: trumpet, flugelhorn (1-2, 4-7, 9-10, 13); Johan Leijonhufvud: alto saxophone (2), Lee Konitz: alto saxophone (3).
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.