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Mark Murphy: Shadows

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Throughout Mark Murphy’s remarkably multifaceted recording career, spanning seven decades, there have been only a couple of gaps, the longest stretching from 1991 to 1996. Now, from the tail end of that fallow period come these eight tracks, recorded in Slovenia with a quartet of European musicians-saxophonist/flutist Karlheinz Miklin, pianist Fritz Pauer, bassist Ewald Oberleitner and drummer Dusan Novakov-and at last released by TCB (“The Montreux Jazz Label”).

In recent years, Murphy’s vocals have grown steadily feebler, only the slightest traces of his once-glorious robustness and imagination still evident. But back in June of ’96, Murphy just entering his mid-60s, his vigor and improvisational brilliance were still in peak form. Just two of the tracks, both then-new to Murphy’s vast repertoire, are covers: a scat-swirled “If I Should Lose You” and a “Lilac Wine” that gloriously weds Murphy’s beat-generation vibe to emboldened inebriation.

The six remaining tracks are Murphy originals, five co-written with Miklin and/or Pauer. The gentle, promising “Dawn” makes way for the desolation of “Empty Room” and staccato buoyancy of “Next Page.” The wordless “Hodnik,” at once yearning and threatening, complete with an unsettling stretch of heavy breathing, is Murphy at his extemporizing best. Even more bizarre and compelling is the 10-and-a-half-minute closer, “Humanity Ltd,” an otherworldly mind-trip exploring mankind’s facility for cruelty.

Originally Published