Mark Murphy, Live In Athens, Greece – Harbinger

Mark Murphy, Live In Athens, Greece – Harbinger HCD 3202

A singer of no-nonsense acumen.

(Mark Murphy – vocals; Spiros Exaras – electric guitar; Thomas Rueckert – piano; Alex Drakos – drums; George Georgiadis – acoustic bass)

When Mark Murphy died on October 22, 2015, at age 83, jazz lost one of the most interesting and innovative interpreters of vocal jazz. Unafraid to take chances, Murphy put his dynamic baritone voice to good effect as he ranged over an eclectic array of material that covered the spectrum from ballads to bebop. In this new release taken from a live performance in Greece in April 2008, the Murphy effect is in full flower as he dives and swoops over some well-known numbers that nevertheless still sound fresh.

Beginning with “My Funny Valentine” Murphy stakes out his turf as he shows his vocal command by driving the tune through an interpretation that eschews that traditional with an up-tempo rendition that he scats in part with undiminished glee. That Murphy was an unabashed admirer of Miles Davis was well-known and the program presented at this live session was replete was Davis compositions or associated tunes starting with “All Blues”. With words by Oscar Brown Jr., the song is presented with panache, swing, and a lyrical cohesion.

The other compositions that fall into the Davis ambit are “On Green Dolphin Street”, “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “Milestones”. Murphy’s own tribute to Davis is the aptly titled “Miles”. All these interpretations are done with robust brilliant work by Murphy but “Milestones” just bristles along at a smart pace with Murphy in full flight with his vocalese/bebop take on the number. The band also checks-in with some surging solos – especially pianist Thomas Rueckert ,drummer Alex Drakos, and guitarist Spiros Exaras.

The album closes with a couple of numbers by Antonio Carlos Jobim, namely “Inutil Paisagem” and “Dindi” with the latter becoming a bossa nova standard and covered by multiple artists. Murphy’s exposition of both songs is full of warmth and meditation.

Mark Murphy was a one-off singer of no-nonsense acumen who is unlikely to be replicated.

TrackList: My Funny Valentine; All Blues; On Green Dolphin Street; Summertime; Autumn Leaves; When I Fall In Love/My One And Only Love; Bye Bye Blackbird; Miles; Milestones; On The Red Clay; Inutil Paisagem/Dindi

—Pierre Giroux

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