What a glorious, amazing, stunning, life-affirming, rich, varied, awesome, and love-filled c.d. this is!
And now I'll tell you how I really feel about it....
Mark Murphy is responsible for some terrific albums over his 50 years as a recording artist. "Rah", "Bop for Miles", "Bop for Kerouac", "The Latin Porter", and 2005's "One to Every Heart" are all terrific albums. But though I acknowledge that mine is a minority position, I think this overall is his best. And at age 75, too; I can't think of any other recording vocalist who could legitimately make such a claim.
Christopher Loudon of "Jazz Times" lauds this album, but says it's a continuation of "One to Every heart" and is about a "life well-lived." Agreed and disagreed. It is a continuation of the 2005 masterpiece, in that it's recorded on Verve, in Germany, and features the amazing Till Bronner (surely one of the finest trumpeters in the world today), Frank Chastenier on piano, and some terrific, spare string arrangements by Nan Schwartz. But whereas that c.d. was nothing but romantic ballads essentially from the era of "Tin Pan Alley", done at achingly slow tempi so that the master improvisor could wiggle around lyrically and melodically, this one is much more varied. In particular, I've never heard such a "loosey-goosey" arrangement of "Angel Eyes", and any c.d. with a jazz arrangement at a funereal tempo of Johnny Cash's "So Doggone Lonesome" cannot be called "standard" by any means.
As for the theme, I understand why one might arrive at the "life well-lived" conclusion, from the fantastic combo of "The Interview" (a free verse poem over a jazzy bass-drum lick with burst of instruments every now and then, and chirping birds), followed by "Once Upon a Summertime", followed by a reprise of the c.d.'s theme song, Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments", followed by the title track. This is one of the best jobs of programming since the second side of "Abbey Road." But the rest of the c.d. is about even more.
The final track is an old, obscure Broadway tune, "Did I Ever Live", and the fifth track is Coldplay's "What If". These two encapsulate what the album is really about: the wonderment of life. From the ups, to the downs, what does it all mean? It is almost too difficult to comprehend, at times; but then, so is God. But so long as it is Love that is what stays, it all is at least worth trying to comprehend.
That makes 4 absolute gems for the first half of 2007: Tierney Sutton's "On the Other Side", Kendra Shank's "Spirit Free", Kurt Elling's "Nightmoves", and now this. Each is arguably the best album ever released by each respective artist. What a year 2007 has been! And it's not even half over! RC