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Mark Murphy Remembers George Mesterhazy

April 8, 1953-April 12, 2012

George Mesterhazy (left) with Mark Murphy in October 2011

George Mesterhazy was a legend in his own lifetime. Last spring, on hearing of George’s sudden passing, I was still mourning my brother, Doc Murphy, so losing George felt that much more intense. Here are some thoughts on a man I knew for quite some time and feel extremely fortunate to have known. Besides his pianistic and overall musical talents, George had something extra-a full-on joie de vivre.

George had a way of accompanying me that never left anything unsaid, and this will be hard, if not impossible, to replace. The fact that he had been Shirley Horn’s pianist in her later years gave us a secret weapon, since Shirley and I shared a certain sensibility that George instinctively understood. He had that “mysterious” component locked down, some magic up his sleeve, if you will. George knew how to set up a sparse accompaniment, to play the “unsaid” chords. There aren’t many people left who are that hip, with such an unflagging dedication to detail, who are so determined to find just the right way to say something musically. Everywhere we went, fellow musicians marveled at George’s chops, his subtleties and his ideas for arrangements. In Berlin, trumpeter Till Brönner was knocked out by him, as was the whole band.

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