Mark Murphy/Benny Green – DIM THE LIGHTS

Dim The LightsDim The Lights
Mark Murphy/ Benny Green
by John Barrett

No frills, no fanfares – just singer, songs, and a lot of heart. Benny Green stirs the slow blues, rarely the focus but always a presence. That words defines Mark Murphy; he’s a street-corner sharpie, quick with a boast or a snappy reply. That’s too much on the opener: “‘Ay, dat’s YORE red waggin'” he says, like an extra from Guys & Dolls. Too broad even for self-parody; you listen to Benny and wait for the voice to get better.

Since he’s Mark Murphy, it does: piano is weary on “Rules of the Road”, with vocal to match. He says “Love is a hoax” with great sadness, and you know he means it. Not skipping a beat, the “Road” leads to “Street of Dreams” – and things start to jump. Green hits a funky stride (hear him quote “Birks’ Works”); Mark does a trumpet-like scat, then tackles those juicy words. “No one is poor on the Street of Dreams” – you’re poorer if you miss it.

Next is a dub medley – three Murphys sing three songs at once. Better in concept than execution, though the scat choir is fun. He grows reflective on the hymn “Quiet Place”, fragile on his own “Dim the Lights”, and wonderfully sad on “See You Later”. While the songs are obscure, their beauty is not; Mark sure can pick ’em. And how Benny plays ’em: “Two Lonely People” is a salon piece for three lovely minutes. Here the vocal is a major anticlimax. That’s when you realize: these two are on equal footing, and beautifully in step.