JJ 03/82: Mark Murphy at University College School, Hampstead

Forty years ago Michael Webber hailed the singer - controlled, intelligent and responsive - as one of the greatest of all time. First published in Jazz Journal March 1982

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Mark Murphy on another London gig, at the Bass Clef in 1987 with Peter Ind and a young Mark Taylor. Photo © Brian O'Connor

Mark Murphy is one of the greatest jazz singers of all time; it is not too much to say that he has everything. The best of Nat Cole, Billy Eckstine and Mel Tormé is mix­ed with a portion of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross to produce a singer whose voice control, musical intelligence and pleasing personality kept the audience and – just as important – the band delighted throughout.

Brian Dee, Len Skeat, Alan Ganley and Johnny McLevey did a marvellous job firstly by providing that alert and swinging backing that Murphy demands and also by producing a string of solos that at no time allowed the tension to flag.

Whether Mur­phy was singing against or with the full group, duetting with McLevey or Dee and on occasion just with Len Skeat’s bass, or even singing completely alone, he demonstrated that he is the complete artist. Everything he does is right. His vibrato is perfectly adjusted to suit the line – in­strumentalists please copy. His tone and range are immense and his feeling for the lyrics is as great as one could wish.

Numbers from Miles, Duke, Basie, LHR and others (including a fine tribute to Harold Arlen) were all given sympathetic treatment.