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May 2009

Mark Murphy
Murphy’s Mood

Casual fans of bop vocalist Mark Murphy who bring home this DVD without closely examining the list of performances are likely to be left wanting more—a lot more.

Featuring two nearly 30-year-old episodes of the TV show Ad Lib, Murphy’s Mood isn’t quite what it appears to be at first glance. The cover jacket’s fine print alludes to special guest performances by trumpeters Pete and Conte Candoli, but the late siblings are represented by six performances on this hour-long disc, each arrangement enhanced by a seasoned West Coast rhythm section, while Murphy appears on just four tracks, adroitly accompanied by keyboardist Bill Mays, bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Chiz Harris.

Of course, Murphy completists will take what they can get, even if it’s a brief series of performances that allow the vocalist a chance to pay harmonically tricky tribute to his heroes—Charlie Parker, King Pleasure and Sonny Stitt, among others—or to display his seductive way with a ballad. Murphy’s warmly expressive rendering of “Again” is particularly enjoyable, a romantic interlude programmed here in between vibrant takes on “Parker’s Mood” and “Farmer’s Market.” (While there are moments during the uptempo tunes when Murphy glances at a lyric sheet, the performances are nevertheless stamped by his signature harmonic agility and invention.)

Hosted by the late pianist and arranger Phil Moore, these episodes showcase the Candoli brothers in a variety of quintet settings, with Ross Tompkins on piano and Joe Diorio on guitar. The most soulful performance by far, thanks in large part to Diorio’s blues shadings, is “Willow Weep for Me,” but it’s also a delight to hear the siblings trading crisp solos on the mid-tempo “Echo” or blazing in tandem on “Blue ’n’ Boogie,” with Tompkins and Diorio in hot pursuit. Audio and video have been digitally remastered, and a Murphy biography scroll is included as a bonus feature.

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