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Mark Murphy: Lucky To Be Me

Could this be the last of Murphy? It’s not that his latest lacks the expected power or authority or elegance. Nor does Murphy’s instrument, made all the richer by the grit of advancing age, sound anything less than superb. It’s the song selection that’s disconcerting: tasteful and intriguing as always, yet mired in moody reflection.

Stretching the chilling melancholy of Sinatra’s “It Was a Very Good Year” to album length, Lucky to Be Me plays out like a languid prelude to Matt Dennis’ inimitably haunting exit line, “‘Scuse me while I disappear.” Opening with a trio of selections from Comden, Green and Bernstein’s On the Town, Murphy downshifts into a sheer, halting “Some Other Time” that rivals any version I’ve heard. It’s complemented by a dusky “Photograph” of voyeuristic intensity (no one interprets Jobim with Murphy’s shimmering assurance) and a wrenching “Just As Though You Were Here” dusted with wistful hints of Tony Bennett’s sandy warmth.

Accelerating ever so gently, Murphy pays joyful homage to the songbirds he’s admired most with the wily, self-penned “Blues for Frances Faye” (complete with chanting chorus boys who sound like refugees from a Kay Thompson nightclub act), Murphy then eases into a stirring chaser that blends the clouded gin of Arlen and Mercer’s “I Wonder What Became of Me” with the dry vermouth of Noel Coward’s archly philosophic “If Love Were All.”

Perhaps these sessions, his first after 9/11, simply caught Murphy in a reflective mood.

Originally Published