Mark Murphy: Memories of You

Mark Murphy is the Rolls Royce of jazz interpreters. His bruised magnificence setting the platinum standard for all comers. Memories of You (HighNote), a richly variegated salute to Joe Williams, finds Murphy in the fine company of pianist-arranger Norman Simmons (a staple of Williams’ latter-career trio), guitarist Paul Bollenback, drummer Grady Tate, bassist Darryl Hall and saxophonist Bill Easley. Unlike so many in-name-only tributes, Murphy pays genuine homage to Williams, if not in fact then certainly in spirit. (Murphy insists he’s no blues singer, though past evidence suggests that he doth protest too much)

Only Murphy could handle the bleak desolation of the title track, the haunted chill of “A Man Ain’t Supposed to Cry” and the sunny bounce of “Love You Madly” with such seemingly effortless dexterity. He extracts every ounce of sexiness from “Just Squeeze Me” and simmers with barely contained desire as he caresses the smoky “Close Enough for Love.” And hearing Murphy plumb the aching, obsessive depths of “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good),” you know somewhere Duke Ellington is sighing a very satisfied sigh.