JJ 03/64: Mark Murphy – Rah

Sixty years ago Steve Voce heard the singular singer give a lesson to Sinatra, Dick Haymes and anyone you care to name. First published in Jazz Journal March 1964


It is a pleasure to get this record to review for the second time, for Mark Murphy is perhaps the most important jazz singer to emerge for some years. Originally issued over here a year or so back, this album was withdrawn because of copyright difficulties. The new set has a re-made Favourite Things with Murphy sticking to the original lyrics (previously he had used a hip set which were more entertaining), and also omits I’ll Be Seeing You from the first issue, replacing it with Like Love.

Murphy phrases like a horn man, and indeed his improvisations sound most instrumental in concept. Particularly on the out-and-out jazz numbers does he reveal himself as a confident and inspired musician. Doodlin’, based on Blakey’s version with Silver, is a jazz masterpiece with elegant lyrics from Jon Hendricks (who also wrote the words to Li’l Darlin’).

But the peak of these performances is Spring, surely the greatest ballad ever written, wherein Murphy gives a lesson to Sinatra, Dick Haymes and anyone you care to name.

The rhythm accompaniments are as sensitive and intelligent as a glance at the personnels will lead you to believe. The brass section is a killer, well-featured despite the fact that the only solo is Clark Terry’s on Clock. The whole set is topped off by a shimmering collection of Ernie Wilkins arrangements.

It should be made quite clear that there is no gimmickry involved in these performances – they are neither copies nor pastiches in the manner of some so-called “instrumental” singers. Murphy is a vital and assured creator of jazz and I am glad to be able to recommend Rah to anyone interested in mainstream or modern jazz. I have heard that Riverside’s sequel That’s How I Love The Blues is even better, and hope that we won’t be kept waiting too long for its issue.

Stoppin’ The Clock; Green Dolphin Street; My Favourite Things; Angel Eyes; Out Of This World; No Tears For Me (20 min) – Milestones; Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most; Twisted; Li’l Darlin’; Like Love; Doodlin’ (20 min)
Murphy (vcl); Clark Terry, Blue Mitchell, Joe Wilder, Bernie Glow or Ernie Royal (tpts); Urbie Green, Jimmy Cleveland, Melba Liston (tbns); Bill Evans or Wynton Kelly (p); Barry Galbraith or Sam Herman (g); George Duvivier or Art Davis (bs); Jimmy Cobb (d); Ray Barretto (conga). New York, September and October, 1961.
(Riverside RLP 395 12inLP 37s. 6d.)