Vocal Jazz • United States
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The American jazz vocalist Mark Murphy, who has died aged 83, could sound like a pretty convincing conventional crooner when he wanted to, but he spent most of his colourful career distancing himself from popular music’s mainstream as a fearless innovator. “People say I’m a risk-taker, I’m on the edge,” he once said. “But I had to be there, because that was the only place that wasn’t overcrowded.”
Murphy’s vocals were often like fast-moving Charlie Parker saxophone solos, peppered with jittery yelps, falsetto sounds and dissonant feuds with the underlying chords. But as the critic Will Friedwald put it: “He doesn’t abstract and skewer a song merely for the sake of being different, but to get at its inner meaning. By making you think differently about a song you’ve heard before, he makes it relevant and meaningful all over again.”
As a consequence Murphy’s influence was immense among jazz vocalists, and his
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