Mark Murphy at Ronnie Scott’s and Morley College

Mark Murphy comes to town.

On 30th-31st January, Ronnie Scott’s will play host to one of the greatest jazz singers in the world today: 6 time Grammy nominated Mark Murphy,writes SARAH ELLEN HUGHES.

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This return trip to London has been a long time coming – for the last three years Murphy has been very ill, his situation exacerbated by the fact that for two years he had been misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s and placed on incorrect medication. Now, thanks to a re-diagnosis and correct medical care, a wonderful new agent and a new record (which was recorded whilst residing in a care home), Murphy can tour again.

He will be bringing with him George Mesterhazy, who was Shirley Horn’s pianist when she could no longer play the piano (Horn had to have a foot amputated following complications from diabetes.) In the past, Murphy has not been able to bring a pianist to London, so this will be something very special indeed.

I spoke to Gill Manly about his visit, as she has had a massive hand in organising his trips to London in the past.

They met in 1991, when Murphy was playing a gig at Pizza on the Park, and only two people turned up to watch – Gill and Ian Shaw! From that day they became great friends, Gill starting off as his fan, then his student, and then organising workshops for jazz singers when he came to town. This was before there was a plethora of excellent jazz courses available in this country, so singers such as Tina May, Christine Tobin and Anita Wardell would all come to Mark Murphy workshops for part of their education, surely helping them along the way to forging formidable careers themselves.

So, to take advantage of the fact that Murphy is such a great educator, Gill has organised an event which was initially intended to be a simple workshop – but because of Murphy’s profile and the fact that it’s been so long since he was in this country, it’s turned into an interview/demonstration/Q & A session which will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Lineup.

Claire Martin will present the session, talking about his career, health and education, and inviting Murphy to sing a couple of songs and ‘demonstrate some of his teaching techniques for jazz singers.’

A panel of British jazz stars including Ian Shaw, Norma Winstone, Pete Churchill, and possibly Curtis Stigers, who is an ex-pupil of Murphy’s, (Cleo Laine has been advertised but unfortunately will not make it owing to illness) will each pose a question to Mark. This will focus on the development of jazz education and his role in the education of jazz singers, especially in London.

There are only 80 tickets – which are available for free to Morley College students, and only £10 to external visitors. It’s not just a singer’s event – horn players come down too! See a man who’s played with some of the greatest horn players in the world.

The event runs from 11-1pm on Monday 30th January at Morley College, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1. Tickets are available by pre-booking only. Email mmm@morleycollege.ac.uk to reserve a place.

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