A delicious session of top flight vocal inventiveness 

Mark Murphy – Midnight Mood – MPS0212419MSW 36:59****

( Mark Murphy – vocals; Jimmy Deuchar – trumpet; Ake Persson – trombone; Derek Humble – alto saxophone; Ronnie Scott – tenor saxophone; Sahib Shihab – baritone saxophone + flute; Francy Boland – piano; Jimmy Woode – bass; Kenny Clarke – drums )

Mark Murphy died in October 2015 at the age of 83 and with him a style of hip singing that only had a few similar innovators, such as Giacomo Gates and Kurt Elling. Throughout his life, Murphy stayed true to his craft that encompassed a singular vocal style that often bent out of shape vocal lines, and threw in brief passages of vocal scatting that kept the tunes close to jazz styles.  In this re-release of the original 1967 recording, Murphy was backed by some key members of The Francy Boland-Kenny Clarke Big Band for a pleasurable session of top flight vocal inventiveness.

Murphy starts out with an example of his prowess, as he laces into the Duke Ellington/Ben Webster composition “Jump For Joy” in a cappella intro that leads to a recapnition for the band, followed by his scatting for several bars. A bluesy “I Don’t Want Nothin’” swings briskly along in celebratory fashion. “Alone Together “ by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz was written for the Broadway show Flying Colors in  1932. Murphy takes the song at a quick clip pushed by drummer Kenny Clarke’s toe tapping brush work. There is a striking muted trumpet solo from Jimmy Deuchar.

The Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh composition “ You Fascinate Me So” is the kind of number that is perfectly suited to Murphy’s interpretive style when it has the opening lines that state: I have a feeling that beneath that little halo on your noble head/There lies a thought or two that the devil might be interested to know. Not every singer can carry this off, with the exception of Blossom Dearie, and certainly Mark Murphy.

When putting this re-release together, MPS did not try to fill out the disc with multiple takes of the numbers or other extraneous material, but offered only the original material remastered. The sound quality for which the label had originally been known is ever present, and there are no better examples of this but on the tracks “My Ship and “I Get Along Without You Very Well” when the crystal clear piano of Francy Boland is offered in sympathetic support for Murphy’s interpretation of these two wonderful ballads.

While he was alive Mark Murphy fulfilled his career on his own terms without the homage that fame might have brought. For those who are unfamiliar with his work, this is as good a place as any to start.

Jump For Joy
I Don’t Want Nothin’
Why And How
Alone Together
You Fascinate Me So
My Ship
Just Give Me Time
I Get Along Without You Very Well

—Pierre Giroux