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March 2006

Chris Murphy
On a Blue Afternoon
Kufala

A gentle, insistent swing and insouciant, charming lyricism make Chris Murphy's On a Blue Afternoon a leisurely yet absorbing way to spend an hour. The album is violinist Murphy's tribute to West Coast cool jazz from back in the '50s, but rather than making new recordings of old material, Murphy, bassist David J. Carpenter and drummer D.J. Bonebrake recreate the laid-back vibe from scratch: All the tunes on the CD are Murphy-Carpenter originals, and the melodies are winsome and appealing whether bluesy (the title track), balladish ("Laguna Canyon") or simply swaying like a well-worn hammock ("Baxters Back").

Yet these musicians aren't constrained by their aesthetic. Murphy plays with a beguiling charm but also sneaks a few outre touches like fuzzy quavering double-stops in the middle of an otherwise normal solo. Carpenter's simpatico accompaniment is almost as impressive as his poised, deft solos, and Bonebrake (a punk drummer by day) provides tinges of rock that goose the proceedings but never sound anything but completely natural. Only two tracks, "Violin Improvisation #1" and "All Your Goodbyes," depart from the aesthetic, with mesmerizing violin trembling and halting melodies; they remind us what century we're in and point up the fun of the West Coast cool style from the last one.

Originally published in March 2006
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