Mark Murphy (singer)

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Mark Murphy
Mark Murphy (1975).jpg
Mark Murphy (1975)
Background information
Birth name Mark Murphy
Born (1932-03-14) March 14, 1932 (age 83)
Origin Fulton, New York, United States
Genres Swing, Jazz
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals
Associated acts Jack Teagarden, Eddie Jefferson, Jon Hendricks

Mark Murphy (born March 14, 1932) is an American jazz singer based in New York. He is noted for his definitive and unique vocalese and vocal improvisations with both melody and lyrics. He is the recipient of the 1996, 1997, 2000, and 2001 Down Beat magazine readers jazz poll for Best Male Vocalist of the Year and is also the recipient of six Grammy award nominations for Best Vocal Jazz Performance. He is also known for his original lyrics to the jazz classics "Stolen Moments" and "Red Clay".

Early life[edit]

Mark Murphy at Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, Half Moon Bay CA 8/3/80. Photo by Brian McMillen

Born in Syracuse, New York, in 1932, Murphy was raised in a musical family,[1] his parents having met as members of the local Methodist Church choir. He grew up in the nearby small town of Fulton, New York,[2] where his grandmother and then his aunt were the church organists. Opera was also popular in the Murphy home. He started piano lessons at the age of seven.

Murphy joined his brother's jazz dance band as the singer when a teenager, citing influences from Nat "King" Cole, June Christy, Anita O'Day, and Ella Fitzgerald. Jazz piano legend Art Tatum was also an influence.

Murphy graduated from Syracuse University in 1953, majoring in Music and Drama. University life included performing on campus and also in a club – playing piano and singing.

In 1954, Murphy moved to New York City, working part-time as an actor and singer. He appeared in productions for the Gilbert and Sullivan Light Opera Company and a musical version for television of Casey at the Bat. Also, he twice took second place at the Apollo Theatre amateur contests.

The first albums[edit]

Murphy was eventually introduced to record producer Milt Gabler, who was an artist and repertoire director (A & R) for Decca. Gabler’s reputation was extensive, having previously recorded Jack Teagarden, Bud Freeman, Pee Wee Russell, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Edmond Hall, Hot Lips Page, and Billie Holiday. He was also working with Ella Fitzgerald and Bill Haley & His Comets.

His resulting debut recording was Meet Mark Murphy (1956),[2] followed closely by Let Yourself Go (1957). These are both now reissued on one CD entitled Crazy Rhythm: His Debut Recordings (Decca GRD-670).

In 1958 Murphy moved to Los Angeles and recorded for Capitol, but returned to New York in the early '60s and recorded the album Rah! (1961) on Riverside Records, performing "Angel Eyes", a version of Horace Silver's "Doodlin'", and "Green Dolphin Street", featuring legendary jazz players Bill Evans, Clark Terry, Urbie Green, Blue Mitchell and Wynton Kelly. This album has been recently reissued [1993] by Fantasy Records. His favorite recording to date, That's How I Love the Blues, soon followed. In 1963, Murphy hit the charts across the country with his single of "Fly Me to the Moon" and was voted New Star of the Year in Down Beat Magazine's Reader's Poll.[citation needed]

The Muse albums[edit]

In the late 1960s Murphy moved to London, England, where he worked primarily as an actor. He continued however, to cultivate his jazz audiences in Europe. He returned to the States in 1972 and began recording an average of an album a year for more than fourteen years on the Muse label.[1] These projects - including the albums Nat King Cole Songbook Vol. I and II, Bop for Kerouac, Kerouac Then And Now, Living Room, Satisfaction Guaranteed, Beauty And the Beast and, Stolen Moments - garnered widespread critical acclaim and numerous Grammy nominations.[citation needed] This last album contains Oliver Nelson's instrumental standard "Stolen Moments" with lyrics by Murphy.

In 1984 together with Viva Brasil he recorded the album Brazil Song (Cancões do Brasil), which featured original material written by Brazilian songwriters including work by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Milton Nascimento.

New directions[edit]

In 1987, He recorded Night Mood, an album of songs by Brazilian composer Ivan Lins, followed by the Grammy-nominated September Ballads on Milestone Records. Murphy has also appeared on U.F.O.'s last two releases (for Polydor Records), in which he has written and rapped lyrics on songs composed with the group. This collaboration opened up further new audiences in the acid-jazz and hip-hop genres, demonstrating jazz's timelessness while transcending generations and styles.

In August 1997, BMG/RCA Victor released Song For The Geese, for which he has received his sixth Grammy nomination. Also in August 1997, the 32 Records label Joel Dorn and Michael Bourne released a double CD retrospective Stolen and Other Moments, which features some of his recordings for the Muse label (now defunct). The CD features material from the two "Kerouac" albums and a selection of "the best of Mark Murphy".

Murphy’s release Once to Every Heart (2005), on the Verve label, features sensuous ballads, where the listener can capture him singing in top form, with superb musicians and sounding better than ever. In 2007 Love is What Stays was released on Verve. Both albums were produced by German trumpeter Till Brönner.

Murphy has also collaborated with Five Corners Quintet, a modern Finnish jazz band. He appears on their albums Chasin' the Jazz Gone By (2005) and Hot Corner (2008).

In 2010 he released the independently produced CD, Never Let Me Go, on which he is supported by pianist Misha Piatigorsky, bassist Danton Boller and drummer Chris Wabich.

2013 saw the release of a limited edition EP/MP3, "Beautiful Friendship: Remembering Shirley Horn" (Gearbox Records).

Murphy has continued to tour internationally into his 80s, appearing at festivals, concerts, in jazz clubs and on television programs, throughout the U.S., Europe, Australia and Japan, as well as other places. John Bush at described Murphy as "a major name in vocal jazz."[1]



Guest appearances[edit]

With Madeline Eastman

  • "You're the Dangerous Type" - Mad About Madeline! (1991)

With Gill Manly

  • "I Keep Goin' Back to Joe's" - With a Song in My Heart (Linn Records, 2009)

With Guillaume de Chassy and Daniel Yvinec

  • "I'll Walk Alone"/"Then I'll Be Tired of You"/"Taking a Chance on Love"/"I Wish You Love" - Songs from the Last Century (Bee Jazz, 2009)

With Till Brönner

  • "Dim The Lights" - "Blue Eyed Soul" (Universal-2002)



  1. ^ a b c Bush, John. "Mark Murphy: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  2. ^ a b Longe, Suzanne (2009-07-31). "Mark Murphy: Inside the Mystery". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 

External links[edit]