In his opening number, "Stolen Moments," Mark Murphy sang of the therapeutic qualities of music -- jazz in particular. And throughout his two generous sets at Cates Wednesday night, he indeed seemed to be working something out within his songs, exploring the shadows in even the sunniest, finding undiscovered ironies in a medley of "It Might as Well Be Spring" and "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most."
Murphy showed a capacity for delight as well, as he swung into a string of songs by Brazilian composers, building rhythmic spans between the words of Milton Nascimento's "Bridges" and outdoing himself on three tunes by Ivan Lins, including the lilting "Madalena," "Ticket (Bilhete)," which unfolds a haunting heartbreak story, and "Sails," with a nighttime melody that sticks around till next morning. He also reworked several Nat King Cole classics, putting "Route 66" back on the map.
The evening's second set was more relaxed and eclectic. Murphy decided he felt like the key of G and forged links between an unlikely series of songs, from "I'm Old Fashioned," which included an impression of acid rain, to "How High The Moon" and "Steamroller."
Pianist Gerard D'Angelo and bassist Steve Novosel supplied competent accompaniment but couldn't approach Murphy's vocal inventiveness and daring. So Murphy acted as his own rhythm section on several numbers, turning the intake of breath and consonant sounds into percussive elements. Murphy will be at Cates until Oct. 18, after which the club will close its doors until it reopens in April at a new, larger location in the Tenley Circle area.