Vet jazz singer Mark Murphy shapes his songs with dark sensitivity, spurred by enveloping warmth and deeply imaginative conviction. There is interpretive logic in his unique blend of phrasing and dynamics, punctuated by rhythmic nuance and unconventional time patterns.
A singer whose roots are firmly planted in early bop, Murphy recalls the era with Horace Silver’s infectious and pulsating, “Senor Blues” — which he first recorded in ’63 — and Mary Lou Williams’ “In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee.” The latter is a classic be-bop fairy tale and a landmark Dizzy Gillespie classic, introduced a half-century ago by hip vocalist Little Joe Carroll. Murphy not only demonstrates the hot rhythmic structure of the novelty tune but also captures the flippant fun of the period. The number is featured on his recent High Note CD, “Links.”
Murphy takes colorful flights to lyrical heights, his robust interpretive skills dotted with a style of scat that’s clearly original. His exploration of a song’s melodic content and chord changes always presents a challenge that he rises to with uncommon dexterity and imagination. No Murphy perf is complete without an exotic bossa turn, and included here is an affectionate tribute to Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. The caressing strains of “If You Could Never Come to Me” and “Dindi” are given a persuasive and luxurious setting. Murphy cradles the lyrics, and the enveloping tempo is irresistibly accessible.
Backup is boldly supportive, with David Hazeltine’s piano, time-setting drum assist from Tim Horner, David Finck’s caressing bass lines and Memo Acevedo’s colorful percussive accents.