Mark Murphy

Bop for Miles

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Bop for Miles was recorded live in Vienna in 1990, with Mark Murphy fronting a European quintet. The program is full of tunes associated with Miles' first great quintet -- "Bye Bye Blackbird," "All Blues," "Milestones," "Autumn Leaves," "Summertime," "My Ship," etc. As is typical of Murphy, his readings of these tunes are seminal. His attention to color and nuance in a ballad like "Summertime" is just plain canny: he seems to coax the emotion out of the tune from underneath it, from someplace it was hidden away from view. His segue from the aforementioned tune to the slippery bop swing of "Autumn Leaves" is stunning. As Murphy seamlessly changes tempos, keys, and vocal styles without blinking, the poetry gives way to burning scat and improv. The version of "Parker's Mood" here features King Pleasure's original lyrics to the tune, which are extrapolated upon to include read fragments from Jack Kerouac's novel The Subterraneans -- a nod to Murphy's two fine and criminally out of print recorded tributes to the Beat Generation writer. The "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" here includes Joni Mitchell's words, scored for her Mingus album. The bandmembers, while perfectly suited to the material, are not quite up to Murphy's freewheeling, incendiary wildness, but they don't really hinder him either. The album's last track, "Miles," was written by Murphy and recorded in a studio in 1999. With the singer accompanied only by pianist Peter Mihelich, Murphy's biographical tune is moving, wonderfully styled, and even moving in its fierce but tender lyricism and poetry. A live gig by a master, this is worth seeking out.

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