Bright Idea

Greg Murphy Trio

Despite impressive releases as a leader and a 20-year tenure with Rashied Ali, Greg Murphy remains largely overlooked outside of the New York jazz scene. This exceptional effort, on which the Chicago-born pianist is joined by bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, should go a long way in exposing his abilities, both as a skilled

Despite impressive releases as a leader and a 20-year tenure with Rashied Ali, Greg Murphy remains largely overlooked outside of the New York jazz scene. This exceptional effort, on which the Chicago-born pianist is joined by bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, should go a long way in exposing his abilities, both as a skilled instrumentalist and imaginative composer/arranger, to a wider audience. Murphy opens things up with a swinging rendition of Sigmund Romberg-Oscar Hammerstein jam session staple “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise”, interjecting McCoy Tyner-ish flights and inflections propelled by the driving rhythms of Wheeler and Watts, both of whom share the spotlight with solos of their own. The pianist’s mambo-fied arrangement of the Pharrell Williams mega-hit “Happy”, featuring layered electronic keyboard work, is an infectiously danceable affair on which he alternates the melodic line and clave-undergirded montuno choruses (with a quote from Horace Silver’s “Filthy McNasty”). Murphy’s compositional abilities come to light on the title track, which features fleet-fingered piano and bass improvisations and an explosive drum solo on top of the tenacious piano vamp emerging from the swinging melody. He shows his more sensitive side lithely waltzing on Joe Ford’s beautiful “Earthlings”, then jumps back into the pop world with a funky arrangement of Bruno Mars’ “24 K Magic”, swinging piano complemented by keyboard flourishes nodding to Earth, Wind & Fire. The trio moves outside on Murphy’s “Street Cats”, ethereally ambling out of tempo, then gradually easing into a racing middle section on which the pianist demonstrates a credible affinity for the avant garde while his soulful “Finer Things” and rhapsodic “For My Mom” both demonstrate an appealing lyricism. The uptempo “Straight No Blues” serves as a platform for swinging solos, after which the band once again displays its ability to take things out on Murphy’s frenetic “Moving Violation”, bringing it back in on the appealing waltz “Well, of All Things”. The band charges towards the finish on the recently discovered Coltrane tune “Untitled Original 11383” before closing out with “Juneteenth Notes”, Murphy’s homage to the African- American holiday on which the date was recorded. - Russ Musto

24 JUNE 2019 | THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD

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