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Mark Murphy to be Celebrated at October 20 Concert, Yoshi's Oakland


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As one of the most original and gifted male jazz vocalists to perform over the last 50 years, six-time Grammy Award nominee Mark Murphy has inspired generations of up-and-coming jazz singers. On Tuesday, October 20, at 8:00 pm, an eclectic coterie of renowned vocalists who “grew up” under the wing of Murphy’s mentorship will come together at Yoshi’s Oakland to celebrate his influence through songs, stories, and the establishment of the Mark Murphy Vocal Jazz Scholarship for Berkeley’s Jazzschool.

More than a concert, this love-fest—like the man himself—is sure to be full of poignant moments, deep grooves, and peals of laughter. Murphy himself will be in attendance at the concert as well as at a no-host “meet and greet” following the show.

Mark Murphy is one of a just a handful of jazz vocalists of his generation (like Betty Carter, Jon Hendricks, and Abbey Lincoln) whose adventurous improvisational forays stretched the boundaries of the genre radically, changing and moving the art form in a giant leap forward.

The evening’s performers include Kitty Margolis, Madeline Eastman, Ann Dyer, Laurie Antonioli, Joyce Cooling, and Bobbe Norris—all of whom are based in the Bay Area and have established international performing and recording careers as well as stellar artistic credentials, due in no small measure to Murphy’s support, friendship, and example when he was living in San Francisco in the late 1970s and ’80s. The concert, says Margolis, will provide an opportunity for this select group of singers to reunite and pay homage to their “Uncle Mark.”

Kitty Margolis counts Murphy as one of her greatest inspirations and influences. “Lightning bolts hit me when I first heard Mark sing,” she says. “He revolutionized the idiom with his contemporary approach. Mark is a boundary breaker and a beacon of independence—one of the main reasons I knew I had to walk my own path in this music, eschew artistic compromise, and be fearless about taking risks. When I heard he was coming out to perform at SFJAZZ [October 25 at Florence Gould Theatre], I knew it was time to show him how much we all owe him.”

Laurie Antonioli, the Director of the Vocal Program at the Jazzschool, recalls her own deep roots with Murphy: “When I was 19, Mark invited me to sing with him regularly at his gig at The Dock in Tiburon. I didn’t know then how important he was in the world of jazz, only that he was the greatest singer I’d ever heard. Since that time, Mark’s influence has followed me wherever I go—and he has been generous in so many ways. The fact that we’re creating a scholarship in his name could not be more apropros. Mark said to me a few years ago, ‘Don’t forget that I’m the one who discovered you!’ That is sweet, but I know for a fact that he keeps track of many singers and genuinely loves to know what we’re all doing.”

Ann Dyer’s renown as a vocalist comes for her highly eclectic and individualistic sound, for which she credits Mark Murphy. “He kept nudging me to climb further and further out on the branch of self-expression, and jazz, for that matter,” explains Ann. “He created this monster!”

While Murphy’s mentoring of these young singers took place in the days before there was much formalized “jazz education,” the ensuing years found him to be a tireless and devoted teacher, giving master classes and workshops around the globe. This Yoshi’s fund-raiser brings things full circle, with the launch of the new vocal jazz scholarship in Murphy’s name at Berkeley’s innovative Jazzschool (where, incidentally, Madeline Eastman was an artist in residence for the last several years). The scholarship is intended to continue in perpetuity, supporting the tradition and future of jazz vocals.

“This little group of us shared a really special moment in time,” says Margolis, “when San Francisco had a thriving jazz scene with countless clubs and jam sessions, and the older generation of masters was freely co-mingling with the young ones hungry for the music and the knowledge. During those magic years, Mark blessed us generously with his wisdom, and we continue to treasure him. The Jazzschool scholarship is a way to ‘pay it forward’ a bit by nurturing some gifted emerging artists. We’re all really thrilled to have this chance to express how much Mark Murphy means to us.” •

Tickets are $25 ($10 for Jazzschool students with student ID) and are available by phone (510-238-9200) or online. Proceeds go toward establishing the Mark Murphy Vocal Jazz Scholarship at Berkeley’s Jazzschool. ($20 of ticket price is tax deductible.)

For more information about the Jazzschool or donating to the Mark Murphy Vocal Jazz Scholarship, please visit jazzschool.com or call 510-845-5373.

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