There has been a big void ever since Mark Murphy‘s death in late October of last year. There is really no other male singer around with his skills, talent, style, and character. His ability to put words to well-known tunes from the jazz canon, his love for Brazilian music, his vast amount of unpredictability when it came to choosing repertoire for his albums, is all very hardly missed.
This is a brilliant compilation of 17 tracks from his productive period on Muse Records, for which he recorded between 1972 and 1991. The album has three Herbie Hancock compositions with Mark’s lyrics set to them: “Cantaloupe Island” and “Maiden Voyage” from his 1975 LP “Sings” and the rarely recorded “Sly” from his 1978 LP “Stolen Moments” (originally recorded by Herbie Hancock for his “Head Hunters” album of 1973). The album starts with the title track of that particular album, to this day something like a trademark of his catalogue and his live performances (he loved to play Berlin a lot and thankfully did so various times in the years before his passing).
Also included from that album, which was produced by Mitch Farber, is the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic “Waters Of March” where Mark really excels with his intimate and lovingly dedicated phrasing which only he could do. There is more Brazil in the shape of two songs from his 1984 “Brazil Songs” LP: another Jobim track (“Two Kites”) and a beautiful version of “Bolero De Sata” by Paulo Pinheiro and Carlos Escobar. We are also treated to a sinuous version of Stevie Wonder‘s “Lookin’ For Another Pure Love” (from the 1974 “Mark II”) and an unxpectedly groove jazz version of The Beatles‘ “Eleanor Rigby” (from his 1980 “Satisfaction Guaranteed”).
More classic jazz is added here with John Coltrane‘s “Naima” and Freddie Hubbard‘s “On The Red Clay” and Miles Davis‘ “Be-Bop Lives (Boplicity)”, all masterpieces in vocal jazz. Mark also could get pretty soulful and funky, proven here with his swampy version of “I Don’t Want To Cry Anymore” (from the 1982 “The Artistry Of Mark Murphy”). And Mark could of course write his own sensuous, always interesting, never dull pieces like “Come And Get Me”, also included here from his 1972 LP “Bridging A Gap”.
The album comes with liner notes by Joe Fields, who founded Muse Records and now runs Highnote Records with his son Barney. It’s an interesting read and clearly a love letter to a one-of-a-kind musician or, in Joe’s words: “Mark sang like he was playing an instrument”. Not only that, I think he also actually lived what he sang.