Mark Murphy (singer)

Mark Murphy (singer)
Mark Murphy
Birth name Mark Murphy
Born March 14, 1932
Origin Fulton, New York, United States
Genres Jazz
Occupations 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 most 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 famous for his original lyrics to the jazz classics Stolen Moments and Red Clay. From his Meet Mark Murphy (1956), to the current, Never Let Me Go (2010), Murphy continues attracting audiences and admirers up to the present day.


Early life

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 – 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 TV of Casey at the Bat. Also, he twice took second place at the Apollo Theatre amateur contests.

The first albums

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.

Gabler compared Murphy to Mel Tormé and predicated that his impact would “scare Frank Sinatra”.

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 now classic jazz album Rah (1961) on Riverside Records, performing Angel Eyes, a famous 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.

The Muse albums

Murphy moved to London, England in the late 1960s 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 over fourteen years on the Muse label.[1] These projects - including the highly acclaimed Nat King Cole Songbook Vol. I and II, Bop for Kerouac I and II, Living Room, Satisfaction Guaranteed, Beauty And the Beast and his classic, Stolen Moments - garnered widespread critical acclaim and numerous Grammy nominations. 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 the cream of Brazilian songwriting including work by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Milton Nascimento.

New directions

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, an evocative, ethereal foray into the world of vocalese and arguably his most stunning work yet. 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 best recordings for the Muse label (now defunct). The CD features material from the two "Kerouac" albums and a tasteful selection of "the best of Mark Murphy".

Murphy’s latest but one release Once to Every Heart (2005) on the Verve Records label, features sensuous ballads, where the listener can capture him singing in top form, with superb musicians and sounding better than ever.

Mark 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).

Mark Murphy continues to tour internationally year round, appearing at festivals, concerts, in the best jazz clubs and on television programs throughout the U.S., Europe, Australia and Japan. He is one of the most important jazz vocalists of our time.[1]



  • 1956 Meet Mark Murphy (Decca)
  • 1957 Let Yourself Go (Decca)
  • 1959 This Could Be the Start of Something Big (Capitol)
  • 1960 Mark Murphy's Hip Parade (Capitol)
  • 1960 Playing the Field (Capitol)
  • 1961 Rah! (Riverside Records)
  • 1962 That's How I Love the Blues (Riverside)
  • 1965 Swingin' Singin' Affair (Fontana)
  • 1966 Who Can I Turn To (Immediate)
  • 1970 Midnight Mood (Saba)
  • 1973 Bridging a Gap (Muse)
  • 1975 Mark 2 (Muse)
  • 1975 Mark Murphy Sings (Muse)
  • 1977 Mark Murphy Sings Mostly Dorothy Fields & Cy Coleman (Audiophile)
  • 1978 Stolen Moments (Muse)
  • 1979 Satisfaction Guaranteed (Muse)
  • 1981 Bop for Kerouac (Muse)
  • 1982 The Artistry of Mark Murphy (Muse)
  • 1983 Brazil Song (Cancões Do Brazil) (Muse)
  • 1983 Mark Murphy Sings the Nat King Cole Songbook (Muse)
  • 1984 Living Room (Muse)
  • 1985 Beauty and the Beast (Muse)
  • 1986 Kerouac Then and Now (Muse)
  • 1987 September Ballads (Milestone)
  • 1990 What a Way to Go (Muse)
  • 1991 I'll Close My Eyes (Muse)
  • 1991 Night Mood (Milestone)
  • 1996 North Sea Jazz Sessions, Vol. 5 (Jazz World)
  • 1997 Song for the Geese (RCA)
  • 2000 Some Time Ago (High Note)
  • 2000 The Latin Porter (Go Jazz)
  • 2001 Links (High Note)
  • 2002 Lucky to Be Me (High Note)
  • 2003 Memories of You (High Note)
  • 2004 Bop for Miles (High Note)
  • 2004 Dim the Lights (Millennium)
  • 2005 Once to Every Heart (Verve)
  • 2007 Love Is What Stays (Verve)
  • 2010 Never Let Me Go (Self produced)


Quotes about Mark Murphy

'There's a party goin' on in Mark's head, and I want to go to it!' – Liza Minnelli

'Lad, you didn't!' - Jared Tobin (Classical Guitarist)

'I was quite literally amazed. Mark's musicianship, range, intonation, diction, inventiveness and incredible rhythmic sense are all of a piece and all marvelous.' – Alec Wilder (composer)

'One of the major artists of our age.' – Stereo Review

'For decades, the question What exactly is a jazz singer has had two easy answers: Betty Carter and Mark Murphy.' – New York Post

'He is arguably the best male jazz singer in the business.' – Rex Reed

'I can't help relishing his sure and swinging time, his musical and ever-inventive phrasing and that certain quality of sound and feeling combined with time and taste that to me spells jazz.' – Dan Morgenstern (jazz journalist)

'He is one of the true remaining jazz hipsters of our time’. – Jazziz Magazine

'Mark has devoted a long career to singing the hippest music with the best musicians. Consider the company he has kept on records. In the '60s, Clark Terry, Dick Hyman, Roger Kellaway. In the '70s, David Sanborn and the Brecker Brothers. In the '80s, Frank Morgan, Richie Cole, and the Azymuth Trio. Consider the jazzmen to whose instrumental works he has composed and sung lyrics: Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Pat Metheny, Charlie Parker, McCoy Tyner, Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter.' – Leonard Feather


  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

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