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Mark Murphy featuring Benny Green: Dim the Lights

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Asking a voice-and-piano duo to sustain interest for nearly 70 minutes is a daunting request that Murphy and pianist Benny Green do their best to fulfill. But Murphy’s chops, nakedly exposed in this setting, sound strained and grainy, and Green’s virtuosic playing can not fully compensate for the album’s tonal and rhythmic restrictions. (“Trilogy,” on which Murphy overdubs three standards to achieve a sound reminiscent of poor radio reception, belies his desperation to break out of the duo straitjacket.) To be sure, there are some satisfying moments here, among them an introspective reading of Bill Evans’ bittersweet “The Two Lonely People” and an offbeat treatment of “Street of Dreams” including two hushed verses with the chorus taken at medium walking tempo. But the CD’s 14 tracks, several of them medleys, include too many labored efforts, with Murphy indulging in affectations and unwisely including several examples of his own makeshift lyric-writing. Edited to half-length, Dim the Lights would be far more satisfying than the rather exhausting, hit-and-miss release at hand.