I rarely review people I interview (and know personally), but with Mark Murphy, breaking the rules is the name of the game. I did not know what to expect of Mark last Sunday, but as the night progressed, I felt really sorry for the people who missed it. Luckily for those folks he is appearing at the Kitano this month - so their redemption is at hand. For Mark has ascended with a new image of accessibility, while losing none of his creativity.
His stage persona is that of a laughing sage, an Oberon, ethereal and majestic concurrently. No word or gesture is wasted (Mark never had patience for that!) and most every note he sings serves his audience, the band and the music itself. He does not go as far "out" as in the past, although I think the "avants" would be satisfied. Most definitely a jazz gig, last night ran smoothly as would a well rehearsed cabaret show, with all the marks being hit.
Starting off with a witty and agile "Senor Blues", he moved into as poignant an "I've Got You Under My Skin" as imaginable. Combining his jazz sensibility with a stage actor's skill, the lyric did not offer much hope as it acknowledged a defeat - that although understood intellectually, could not be accepted emotionally. The musicians did not look on like some "hip cats" making smooth moves, but observed Mark as if they were were watching a play - involved with the "character's" plight, without sacrificing musicality. This emotional response from a band is almost unheard of in jazz, yet Mark is a "musician's musician."
Murphy then pulled out some written notes and actually told jokes with the the timing of a Borscht Belt comic. Although topical - Mark's jokes were merely wry observations - he permitted his audience to come to their own conclusions.
Mark expertly proceeded to tear apart the stage with some "greatest hits" including "Stolen Moments", "Twisted" and an arrangement of "My Foolish Heart" displaying all his vocal and rhythmic artillery. I must also must note (to cause my readers further envy) that he nailed an old fashioned "Body and "Soul" to my squealing delight.
George Mesterhazy used alchemy turning his piano into an impressionistic orchestra, while Martin Wind not only plucked his instrument, but bowed beautifully as his attention was raptly directed towards "The Maestro." Willard Dyson on drums deftly completed the trio.
You can partake of Mark at the Kitano this August - Friday and Saturday the 26 and 27th.