Our Jazz editor Tony Andrews writes ...
The 'experts' in Jazz have for many years argued about the difference between what is a Jazz Singer and a Lounge Singer. This has caused much controversy as to which performers fit in to which category. One example being Julie London who was said to be strictly lounge - until recently - where some experts have declared she was truly Jazz through and through.
The problem is more associated with male Jazz Singers and, to my taste, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin where strictly Lounge whereas Mel Torme, Oscar Brown Jnr and John Hendricks were Jazz singers without any doubt.
One singer who has never been subject to that question was Mark Murphy who, up until his demise on the 22nd October 2015, had kept the flag flying for the premier Jazz Singer. Mark has a voice slightly on the coarse side of honey but ….. his interpretations of any song thrown at him were always full of energy and intensity.
To celebrate his life, the CD Anthology was released last year to cover The Muse Years 1972-1991. Apparently, Mark was working on this compilation when he died. I just had to own it and found a copy in HMV, Oxford Street,. This is a delight to listen to from start to finish with every track full of both energy and originality.
Anthology features several songs which are better know as instrumentals but here though are lyrics by Mark Murphy and, consequently, these songs take on a new meaning. These include Cantaloupe Island, Maiden Voyage and Sly - all written by Herbie Hancock. Mark also wrote the words to the Oliver Nelson tune Stolen Moments which is, in my opinion, one of the best songs to come from the US.
I can't remember a CD where every track is so astounding; the tempos change constantly for songs ranging from Antonio Carlos Jobim to John Coltrane, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner to The Beatles. I particularly love the arrangement of John Coltrane's Naima - always been a favourite of mine in its instrumental form.
I am not sure if this CD has been remastered; there being no information. That said, the recording quality is fabulous throughout. I have several Mark Murphy CD's from his much later years and these are also a joy to listen to even though his voice was starting to falter slightly during his mature years started showing.
Taking this in to consideration, he could still run rings round modern day Lounge Singers like Michael Buble. After Mark departed us, the crown of best US Jazz Singer from must have been passed on to Kurt Elling and so the genre is in good hand for some years to come ….. hopefully.