“Love is What Stays” shows again why Mark Murphy is a singer’s singer, the kind of person whose live shows draw audiences filled with singers (pros and wannabes) as well as fans. Murphy’s singing has always had an urgent honesty to it, as if every note might be his last. At the same time, though, his delivery and phrasing remain cool and steady.
Produced by popular trumpeter Till Bronner, Murphy roams through moods and textures. “The Interview” starts with a poetic spoken word monologue before dropping into the hard bop vocals he is best known for. Other tunes, like “So Doggone Lonesome” and the title track do not swing so much as drift leisurely. While orchestral backing often seems to disturb intimate vocals like Murphy’s, here the grander production supports the breathtaking impact of his singing. The arrangements were made to fit his voice, rather than the other way around. That is as it should be, since Murphy’s storytelling of the heart and voice needs little extra help. He is always essential and rewarding listening.
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