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Mark Murphy

Mark Murphy often seemed to be the only true jazz singer of his generation. A young, hip post-bop vocalist, Murphy spent most of his career sticking to the standards -- and often presented radically reworked versions of those standards while many submitted to the lure of the lounge singer -- during the artistically fallow period of the 1970s and '80s. Marketed as a teen idol by Capitol during the mid-'50s, Murphy deserted the stolid world of commercial pop for a series of exciting dates on independent labels that featured the singer investigating his wide interests: Jack Kerouac, Brazilian music, songbook recordings, vocalese, and hard bop, among others.

He grew up near Syracuse, NY, born into an intensely musical family (both parents sang). Mark began playing piano as a child, and studied both voice and theater while at college. He toured through Canada with a jazz trio for a time and spent awhile back home before he moved to New York in early 1954. A few television appearances gained him a contract for Decca Records, and he debuted with 1956's Meet Mark Murphy. He released one more LP for Decca before signing to Capitol in 1959. Though label executives often forced material (and an excessively clean-cut image) on the young singer, he managed to distinguish himself with good sets of standards, musical accompaniment furnished by West Coast jazz regulars, and a distinctive vocal style that often twisted lines and indulged in brief scatting to display his jazz credentials.

He eventually released four LPs for Capitol, but never reached popular audiences the way the label intended. In 1961, Murphy recorded his first album for Riverside, a set of standards and bop vocals named Rah! that gave a first glimpse at his ambition. Though the twentysomething Murphy seemed a little young for a saloon-song chestnut like "Angel Eyes," he performed quite well on side two, styled after a Lambert, Hendricks & Ross LP with vocal covers of bop standards including "Milestones" and Annie Ross' "Twisted." It and its follow-up, the themed LP That's How I Love the Blues, included a top-notch backing group including jazz heroes such as Clark Terry, Snooky Young, Al Cohn, Bill Evans, and Blue Mitchell. The records also displayed Murphy's penchant for trawling the entirety of the 20th century popular/jazz repertory for songs ranging from the slightly overdone to the downright forgotten.

By the mid-'60s, Murphy had begun to recognize his sizable European fan base. Along with scores of American expatriates, he spent many years in Europe and didn't even issue his LPs in America during the rest of the '60s. Instead, he recorded LPs for British labels including Fontana and Immediate (the latter run by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham). Murphy also collaborated with the Clarke-Boland Big Band for 1967's Midnight Mood. His frequent nightclub performances and intimate stage presence also earned rave reviews from jazz and vocal critics. By the time of his return to America in the early '70s, Murphy had become a major name in vocal jazz.

With a contract from Muse in hand, Murphy began recording what would become close to two dozen albums for the label, ranging from earthy '70s dates with the Brecker brothers to Jack Kerouac tributes complete with spoken word readings to a two-volume Nat King Cole Songbook series. During that period, Murphy was one of the only straight jazz vocalists (other than old-guard names like Sinatra and Tormé) to actually make a living out of his craft. He toured relentlessly as well, and remained as hip a name to drop in 1999 as he was in 1959. Since the '90s, Murphy has released a handful of albums including Some Time Ago in 2000, Memories of You in 2003, and Love Is What Stays in 2007. ~ John Bush, Rovi
full bio

Comments

vhlep
Yeah, you know I've listened to Mark like no other vocalist, on and off, over 30 years now and when I think I've heard enough, inevitably I get curiously drawn back to listening to his precise, intense, intimate and wild interpretati o n of a song. Just can't put his work down for very long. Never know what to expect with his shows either, but you want to go back. Just a well earned signature, iconic, timeless jazz vocalist.
tcsgolfs
September Ballads with its Chick Corea (Crystal Silence) and Michael Franks (When She is Mine) covers still knocks me out. Don't know how that one didn't win jazz vocal album of the year when it came out in 1988.
Still magnificent. The Best of the Best.
Saw him in concert a few years ago and was just whisked away by his wonderful voice, always gives me great pleasure!
prsfmail-man
Mark Murphy is always in his prime... whenever he sings
dolabelli9
I'd love to hear older recordings of Mark Murphy when he was in his prime.
Mark . One o f the finest post hard-bop vocalists and stylists out there or anywhere. anytime. A truly unique and a great interpreter of the jazz-read. Love his samba, Brasil inspired bossa-nova takes. Can blend and massage a lyric better than most, and true to the spirit of Jazz, free-form and downright special.
randyweiss
Mark Murphy is the King!! I ask everyone who sings or listens to singers ..who is your favorite male jazz singer? .. seldom do they say Mark M. it is a shame I saw him twice in NYC 20 years ago awesome talent and style Kurt Elling si following in his footsteps aand blazing his own path as one of the best jazz singers ever ...
None better ever!!!
Mark is my very favorite artist. He's the Picasso of jazz. Subtle, funny, and oh so interpretive . I've seen him in NYC when he reaches places that no one else would have the courage to go. His voice is an instrument like no other. .
ericsum
"Bop for Kerouac" is one of my favorite albums....a classic!!!
Don't know why Mark never received the critical reviews that his vocality deserves; possibly the Bobby Darin curse....who knows, but his talent is obvious and it translates on the stage as well as the recordings. Quite possibly one of the most under the radar vocalist's of our time.
My "affair" started with MM back with AFN in Europe and the album "RAH."
Mark reaffirmed my devotion to jazz at a mid 80s date in Hartford,Ct. H e still remains my favorite.
There are two male jazz vocalists, Mark Murphy and Giacomo Gates, repeat for those who didn't hear me, there are two male jazz vocalists, Mark Murphy and Giacomo Gates.
mark murphy's stuff is tight with emotion and classic artistry. it reeks of cigarettes, chablis, and hor deourves. i love Madalena.
it would be great if you could add some 60s or 70s recordings to the mark murphy collection on pandora - such an important artist should have some more material available here than just one recent album
chris821
He's great, love New York on Sunday
cressman
The dude can work it...very creative and will take risks all day long
arielteitel
saw him in concert--inc r e d i b l e - - k i n d of cabaret-ish, incredibly dramatic--st r e t c h e s the song to places no one else can/does....
One of the best "feel it" male jazz singers of all time. Matching along side the great Mel Tome.

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