Chicago native Greg Murphy has been a fixture on the New York City jazz scene since the 1980's, performing and recording with numerous jazz luminaries. Ahead of his show at The Promontory in Chicago August 25,
the one time Illinois State University computer science student talked with GLT's Jon Norton about his new album "Summer Breeze." Murphy said among the songs he recorded for the album were originals he wrote nearly 30 years ago.
"One of those songs, 'A Reason To Smile' is something I've been thinking about over the years, but I had never worked it out with a singer" said Murphy. "So when I did my previous album, I recorded some songs as a demo, including 'A Reason To Smile'. I really wanted to get it to a pop singer. Then I met this singer Malou Beauvoir and said maybe she could do something with that. So we recorded it and though it didn't make it to that album, a record company person convinced me to hang on to it and it ended up on 'Summer Breeze'."
Murphy said another 30 year old song that made the cut on "Summer Breeze" was "No One In Particular," a song he wrote in part while living in New Orleans. In 1985, he won a National Endowment for the Arts grant to study piano with jazz legend Ellis Marsalis in New Orleans. Murphy stayed in New Orleans when his studies with Marsalis were completed. He said he fell in love with the city during that two and a half year period, and picked up so many different styles of music living.
"When I first got there, I started playing with a band called the New Orleans Jazz Couriers. I replaced Harry Connick Jr in that band. And Victor Goines and Reginald Veal was in the band. Veal replaced Walter Peyton Jr in that band" said Murphy.
While in New Orleans, he started playing in the French Quarter on the notorious Bourbon Street, where he said he was forced to learn traditional New Orleans songs and the funky second line style famous to the city.
"Listening to Zydeco, Cajun music, and blues" said Murphy. There's so much music down there. I was absorbing a little of it. I didn't stay long enough to really learn all that music, but I learned some of the traditional songs."
As with his previous albums, Murphy's playing oozes with feeling and soul on "Summer Breeze." He said it's a Chicago thing.
"There's the bluesy element that comes from Chicago" Murphy said. I hope I've retained some of that feeling. There is a simplicity to playing the blues, but it's not that easy. I was really into fusion early on, but I would hang out in the local clubs including Kingston Mines and would occasionally get to see Buddy Guy and just get to hang out on the scene. Just doing that you're going to get some of that influence as well."