Nancy Kelly

Remembering Mark Murphy

Mark Murphy was one of the most innovative, groundbreaking singers in the jazz world. A friend and mentor to Nancy Kelly, he passed away in 2015, and the singer’s latest recording, Remembering Mark Murphy, is a heartfelt tribute to their friendship and his contributions to the genre.

Kelly’s voice has an easy, swinging, mellow quality on this recording, as well as on her five previous albums. But unlike Murphy, she doesn’t stray too far out, try to push boundaries or take chances.

She does break out a bit, though, on Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments,” a tune Murphy wrote lyrics to. After playing lightly with the tune’s syncopated melody, she really swings it with an expressive, rhythmic, free-spirited scat. In contrast is the deeply sentimental “Song For The Geese.” Kelly’s wistful vocals float over a rich, shimmery soundscape that enhances the melancholy feel of the lyric, and John DeMartino’s piano solo flows like a glittering waterfall of notes. A hip, tight arrangement of Freddie Hubbard’s “On The Red Clay,” sung by Kelly in a clipped, staccato tone, is embellished with an exuberant trumpet solo courtesy of Randy Brecker.

Remembering Mark Murphy isn’t a groundbreaking or trendsetting recording. But it is a touching and thoughtfully conceived album meant to celebrate the career of a jazz luminary.