RAH - MARK MURPHY
vocals with orchestra; arranged and conducted by ERNIE WILKINS
The collective lineup of Mark Murphy’s accompaniment here includes-
Clark Terry (tp) Blue Mitchell (tp) Joe Wilder (tp) Bernie Glow or Ernie Royal (tp) Jimmy Cleveland (tb) Urbie Green or Melba Liston (tb) Wynton Kelly or Bill Evans (p) Barry Galbraith or Sam Herman (g) George Duvivier or Art Davis (b) Jimmy Cobb (drs)
New York; September and October, 1961
Angel Eyes (2:58) (Brent – Dennis)
Green Dolphin Street (3:37) (Washington – Kaper)
Stoppin’ the Clock (3:08) (Landesman – Kral)
Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most (3:45) (Landesman - Wolf)
No Tears for Me (3:07) (Huddleston – McIntyre)
Out of This World (4:45) (Mercer – Arlen)
Milestones (2:26) (Britt – Davis)
My Favorite Things (2:51) (Rodgers & Hammerstein)
Doodlin’ (3:24) (Hendricks – Silver)
Lil’ Darlin (4:56) (Hendricks – Hefti)
Twisted (2:27) (Ross – Gray)
I’ll Be Seeing You (1:58) (Kahal – Fain)
When this writer entered the University of Missouri in 1946, GI Bill time was at its height. This was manifested in many specific ways; fatigue jackets outnumbered sportcoats; students crowded the libraries for study purposes; and, in general, Joe College was de-emphasized to a great degree. For instance, when another school’s football team would travel from miles away to play us, they would bring with them a small contingent of rooters and nevertheless outshout our entire side of the stadium. While our cheerleaders were going through extensive contortions, the majority of the students would sit mute. Not only was there a lack of Rag-Rah! on campus but in many quarters it was difficult to find even a Rah.
In 1946, too, modern jazz was first beginning to be widely heard. As one who was trying to spread the gospel of Parker and Gillespie, I can testify that at college it was met with ignorance, apathy or outright hostility. GI Joe had been away and hadn’t heard it developing; college Joe was just too square. A ginger like mark Murphy would have been lost on their collective ear.
But in fifteen years time, modern jazz has had a chance to infiltrate many areas and, as earlier jazz did before it, ahs lent itself to the best of popular music. A jazz point of view has created much fresh material and also refurbished older standards. Both elements are ably demonstrated by the performances of Mark Murphy, a singer who not only has the jazz feeling and attitude but also the musicianship and vocal equipment to make his ideas really happen. Moreover, he now has a youthful, hip audience to appreciate his talents. Thus it would seem very likely it is now time for Mark to happen.
Mark was born into a musical family some 26 years ago in Fulton, N.Y., a small town near Syracuse. All his immediate relatives sing. Both parents and a sister have excellent voices. His younger brother plays piano; his older brother plays bass and teaches music. Mark, who studied the piano as a child, went on the road with a traveling Rotary show while still in high school; at college he studied voice and acting, appearing in everything from Shakespeare to musical reviews. After graduation he went to Canada as singer-pianist with a trio but the group didn’t pan out and Mark went back to Syracuse where he sold toys in a department store.
In February of 1954 he returned to New York to try again. A role in a TV opera, Casey at Bat ,led to summer stock in Wallingford, Connecticut. That fall, Mark did his first LPs. Then he went to California for nightclub (State Bros.) and TV (Steve Allen) work. He received much praise from the critical fraternity and attention from aware listeners, but his career seemed to linger in the shadows.
In 1959 he did a series of college town dates and suddenly he seemed to be singing to his audience. More college concerts were worked in around his club work and in 1961, Mark played several successful college dates in the Buffalo area.
While this is not Mark Murphy’s fist LP, I feel it will be the one to set him apart from the herd, to give his talent the right perspective and show him off in a completely illuminating way. First there is the material. Side 2 might be the more overt “jazz” side, but both sides “swing” in the best meanings of that word and each of the twelve selections has a special quality of its own. Even, the old standards (and these are not of the over-recorded variety) are given individual treatment.
The arrangements by Ernie Wilkins, for a brass ensemble consisting of three trumpets and two trombones (except for Milestones, Doodlin’ and Twisted where only two trumpets – Blue Mitchell and Clark Terry – back the singer) and full rhythm section, are a highly complimentary blend of pulse, taste and color. They are played to perfection by a hand-picked, well-schooled, jazz-feeling-full ensemble.
Angel Eyes is a searching cry with the group suggesting part of Artie Shaw’s old theme, Nightmare, underneath. Dig Mark’s Jimmy Whiterspoonish whine at the end. Green Dolphin Street, which has grown into a jazz standard thanks to Miles Davis, is done complete with verse. The rhythm changes of pace within the chorus are very effective. From the pens of the estimable team of Tommy Wolf and Fran Landesman comes Spring Can Really Hank You Up the Most, which, like most of their output, has found much favor with signers who care. The lament receives the proper wistful treatment from Mark. Mrs. Landesman’s words with Roy Kral’s music make an equally delightful combination on the head shakin’ love song, Stop the Clock. Besides Murphy’s sunny swing, there is a groovy, muted solo by Clark Terry. No Tears for Me is a plaintive torch song with a clever beginning and a touching close. Ray Barretto‘s conga helps set a Latin-sequel background for Out of This World. Murphy starts subtly with just the rhythm pulsating beneath and ten proceeds to belt in the manner of a musical Roger Maris.
The second side moves into the realm of vocal versions of jazz instrumentals and Mark performs in an amazingly dexterous manner as a sort of one-man Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. Miles Davis’ Milestones has words by Jim Britt, a California friend of Mark’s. Murphy negotiates the crisp accents with precise swing (added by Jimmy Cobb’s sticks) and even scats a bit. John Hendricks’ words to Horace Silver’s Doodln’ gives Mark a chance to inject his own touches, thereby imparting an individual stamp even to special material that has been done before. He even introduces a humorous waiter in the S. Z. Sakall tradition.
Hendricks’ words and Neal Hefti’s music on Lil Darlin’ lead to one of the warmest vocals in a long time, right down to the Wendell Culley solo, as on the original Basie recording. Annie Ross’ lyrics to Wardell Gray’s Twisted have never been done before by anyone but Annie. I think authors Ross will agree that Mark does a tremendous job here, combining humor and drive in a personal version. As she knows, this is not the earliest song to sing. The remaining numbers, both standards, nevertheless receive very special and personalized treatment.
There is no doubt that Mark Murphy appeals to thee hip collegian – youthful and vigorous but cool, too. Hence Rah minus the exclamation point. But that piece of punctuation will surely be put in place by the off-campus public which, if this album is any indication, he will reach in a very short time.
(This recording is available in both Stereophonic (RLP 9395) and Monaural (RLP 395) form.)
Produced by ORIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded and mastered at Plaza sound Studios
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York City 36, New York