Review: Mark Murphy Memorial Concert Celebration

We don't often appreciate the impact of someone's life until it's over. Many of late vocalist Mark Murphy's extended family and friends may have been meditating on this during the memorial for him at Saint Peter's (Mar. 14th), because it was abundantly clear by the end of the evening that his life and music had touched and moved so many. His complex personality was partially revealed through reminiscences by those who knew him well while his musical legacy was evident in the fantastic performances given by his peers and mentees.
After vocalists Nancy Kelly, Daniel ÄŒačija and Carol Fredette had set the mood, Roz Corral's lubriciously crooned “What a Way to Go”, followed by Kurt Elling's muscular “I'll Close My Eyes”, began a deeper collective channeling of Murphy's hovering presence. His “sister spirit”, Sheila Jordan, visibly moved, dug deep into “Ballad of the Sad Young Men” with rich, quavering long-tones, pulling her phrases back and forth across the band's pulse. Murphy's facility with scatting and vocalese was echoed in The Royal Bopsters rendition of “Red Clay” (Freddie Hubbard's tune set to Murphy's lyric) and Giacomo Gates' deft delivery of “Boplicity/Bebop Lives” and “Lord Buckley”, a hilarious mash-up of Shakespeare and beatnik-speak.

After Annie Ross, resplendent in matching Persian carpet hat and jacket, gave a sibilant Sprechstimme reading of “Lush Life”, the evening ended with Jordan and Elling's duet, “Where You At?” We knew. Murphy had been there all along.