A Beautiful Friendship by Mark Murphy

Mark Murphy

A Beautiful Friendship: Remembering Shirley Horn

(Gearbox Records)


First time in a while I have had the pleasure of reviewing new work on vinyl, and Mark Murphy’s mature voice made the reacquaintance doubly pleasurable.

What A Beautiful Friendship offers are four songs, absolutely gorgeous vignettes, to love and romance, ostensibly a homage to the memory of Shirley Horn and long time Murphy collaborator George Mesterhazy.

The experience as a whole is akin to escaping from a sudden downpour and taking shelter inside a dimly lit but ambient club, and happening upon the tightest quartet imaginable, fronted by an old fashioned singer of presence.

By old fashioned I mean that ability to take control of a song from the off, irrespective of the lyric, and make it yours. Mark Murphy’s voice is always segued to the words, and his moving and enlightening performance is inimitable, which is why I recommended this EP highly.

The tone is established from the beginning with the upbeat A Beautiful Friendship(‘This is the end of a beautiful friendship/It ended a moment ago/I know cos you told me so.’) which, as the first track, is suitably endowed to introduce Curtis Lundy on double bass, then Alex Minasian on piano and drummer Steve Williams.

The buoyancy of the vocal continues on the ballad But Beautiful where the central tenets of a love affair, progressing the theme from A Beautiful Friendship, is addressed with an adroit playfulness by Murphy, who reflects, perhaps at a bar, ‘Love is funny/or it’s sad/or it’s quiet/or it’s mad/is a good thing/or is bad/but beautiful.’ His capriciousness is further sieved by the contribution of Till Bronner on trumpet.

Recorded in a makeshift studio in New Jersey, this short collection oozes a late night intimacy, never more so than on the Cole Porter track, Get Out of Town, the punching percussion of Williams laying the groundwork for Murphy’s dramatic vocal. This is a recording for the ages, finishing appropriately with Here’s To Life

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