Mark Murphy (singer)

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Mark Murphy
Mark Murphy (1975).jpg
Mark Murphy (1975)
Background information
Born (1932-03-14)March 14, 1932
Syracuse, New York, U.S.
Origin Fulton, New York, U.S.
Died October 22, 2015(2015-10-22) (aged 83)
Englewood, New Jersey, U.S.
Genres Swing, Jazz
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals
Associated acts Jack Teagarden, Eddie Jefferson, Jon Hendricks, Sheila Jordan

Mark Howe Murphy (March 14, 1932 – October 22, 2015) was an American jazz singer based in New York City. He was known for his use of vocalese and vocal improvisations with both melody and lyrics. He was the recipient of the 1996, 1997, 2000, and 2001 Down Beat magazine readers jazz poll for Best Male Vocalist of the Year and also the recipient of six Grammy award nominations for Best Vocal Jazz Performance.[1] He wrote original lyrics to the jazz tunes "Stolen Moments" and "Red Clay".

Early life[edit]

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

Born in Syracuse, New York, in 1932, Murphy was raised in a musical family,[2] his parents having met as members of the local Methodist Church choir. He grew up in the nearby small town of Fulton, New York,[3] where his grandmother and then his aunt were the church organists. Opera was also a presence in the Murphy home. He started piano lessons at the age of seven.[4]

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. The Jazz pianist 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. His resulting debut recording was Meet Mark Murphy (1956),[3] followed closely by Let Yourself Go (1957).

In 1958, Murphy moved to Los Angeles and recorded for Capitol Records, but he 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 Bill Evans, Clark Terry, Urbie Green, Blue Mitchell and Wynton Kelly as accompanists. 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.[5]

The Muse albums[edit]

In 1963 Murphy moved to London, England, where he worked primarily as an actor, and appeared in the 1967 British comedy film Just Like a Woman.[1] He continued, however, to cultivate his jazz audiences in Europe, singing in clubs and on the radio. He returned to the States in 1972 and began recording an average of an album a year for more than 14 years on the Muse label.[2] 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 - gained numerous Grammy nominations.[citation needed] This last album contains Oliver Nelson's "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, Murphy 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 UFO's last two releases (for Polydor Records), in which he wrote 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 anthology Stolen and Other Moments, which features some of his recordings for the now defunct Muse label. 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 Tenth & Parker, a modern UK electronica/acid jazz group on their Twenty:Twelve (2001) album; plus the 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. A limited edition EP/MP3, A Beautiful Friendship: Remembering Shirley Horn on Gearbox Records, was released in 2013.

Murphy also participated as a guest on The Royal Bopsters Project by Amy London, Darmon Meader, Dylan Pramuk, and Holli Ross; released in 2015 by Motema Music.

Murphy 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."[2] A longtime resident of the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey, he died there on October 22, 2015.[6][7]



CD compilations[edit]

  • 1997 Stolen...And Other Moments (32 Jazz) 2-CD set
  • 1998 Jazz Standards (32 Jazz) 2-CD set
  • 1999 Songbook (32 Jazz) 2-CD set
  • 1999 Mark Murphy Sings Nat King Cole...and More (32 Jazz) 2-CD set

Guest appearances[edit]

With Madeline Eastman

  • 1991 "You're the Dangerous Type" – from Mad About Madeline! (Mad Kat)

With Till Brönner

  • 2002 "Dim the Lights" – from Blue Eyed Soul (Universal)

With Gill Manly

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

With Guillaume de Chassy and Daniel Yvinec

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

With The Five Corners Quintet

  • 2008 "Kerouac Days in Montana"/"Come and Get Me"/"Layers of Layers" – from Hot Corner (Ricky-Tick Records)



  1. ^ a b John Fordham, "Mark Murphy obituary", The Guardian, 27 October 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Bush, John. "Mark Murphy: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  3. ^ a b Longe, Suzanne (2009-07-31). "Mark Murphy: Inside the Mystery". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  4. ^ Matt Schudel, "Mark Murphy, jazz singer of freewheeling virtuosity, dies at 83", The Washington Post, October 24, 2015.
  5. ^ "Mark Murphy", AllAboutJazz.
  6. ^ ABC News. "Legendary Jazz Vocalist Mark Murphy Dies in New Jersey at 83". ABC News. 
  7. ^ Roberts, Sam. "Mark Murphy, an Unconventional Jazz Vocalist, Dies at 83", The New York Times, October 25, 2015. Accessed October 26, 2015. "Mark Murphy, an iconoclastic jazz vocalist who drew inspiration from such varied sources as the sound of his hometown factory whistle and the words of the Beat novelist Jack Kerouac, died on Thursday in Englewood, N.J.... Mr. Murphy died at the Lillian Booth Actors Home, where he had been living for several years."

External links[edit]