Jazz singer Mark Murphy has always ventured far from the standard repertory of classic pop tunes. Thursday night at the Vine Street Bar & Grill, where he opened a three-night engagement, Murphy strayed even further to include a handful of handsome tunes by the Brazilian composer Ivan Lins.
"The Island," the first of the Lins tunes included in Murphy's overlong opening set, is perhaps the composer's only song recognizable to U.S. audiences. The song lacked a certain quiet gentility as Murphy overwrought each emotion. He fared much better on the pretty "Lembranca" (love dance) and the easy bossa "Velas Icadas" (sails), each adorned beautifully by the sensitive percussion work by Carlos Gonzalez.
Rather than merely singing the songs from the comfortable settings supplied by the superb trio of pianist Tom Garvin, bassist John Heard and drummer Ralph Penland, Murphy seemed to challenge each tune with inappropriate energy levels. Such efforts frequently resulted in an emotional and musical disparity of feeling.
Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage," with its wildly effective underlying rhythms, was at odds with the singer; a medley of "It Might as Well Be Spring" and "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" never attained the jazz feeling Murphy intended.