Steve Allen once said that anyone interested in jazz singing should have a collection of every Mark Murphy album ever made. Fair enough, but where to begin? Virtually all of Murphy's albums can be recommended for their taste, musicianship and handsome balladry. And his current album, "The Artistry of Mark Murphy," is no exception.
The material is particularly enjoyable, bridging such jazz vocal standards as "Moody's Mood" (less expansive than usual) and "Dat Dere" (frisky as ever) with the poignance of "I Remember Clifford" and the melancholy of "Autumn Nocturne." Even the unlikely medley of Jerome Kern's "Long Ago and Far Away" and James Taylor's tune of the same name works nicely, gracefully shifting from a mood of dreamy reflection to one of restless anxiety. Another highlight is Murphy's own spry lyric, "The Odd Child," sung in agile, horn-like bursts to the tune of George Wallington's cool-era composition "Godchild."
What's more, Murphy's taste in material extends to musicians as well. Especially impressive is guitarist Gene Bertoncini in his tender duet with Murphy on "Clifford." Trumpeter Tom Harrell, bassist George Mraz and pianist Ben Aronov add nice touches elsewhere.
If the album has a shortcoming, it's simply that the level of inspiration and kinship between Murphy and saxophonist Richie Cole on recent albums is absent this time around. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM
MARK MURPHY -- The Artistry of Mark Murphy (Muse MR 5286). THE SHOW TMARK MURPHY, Friday through Sunday at Charlie's Georgetown.