Tina May with the Andy Lutter Trio sings Mark Murphy - Café Paranoia
(33 Records 256. CD Review by Peter Jones)
Five people were essential to the creation of this album, of whom one is the late Mark Murphy. Famously a disciple of Jack Kerouac, Murphy took up the latter’s concept of the Western haiku: not quite the same as the strict 17-syllable Japanese verse form, but a looser jazz version of it, in which an idea could be briefly expressed in English, and riffed upon.
Murphy came to know and work with the Munich-based German pianist Andy Lutter during the 1990s, and the two began sharing their mutual interest in jazz haiku, Murphy later faxing through his texts as a basis for some future music. The years passed, and nothing happened. Or at least, very little.
Thankfully, however, that future music is here on this album, sung instead by our very own Tina May, backed by Lutter’s trio. They recorded it in Munich, and received the great man’s blessing for its release shortly before his death in 2015.
And it needs to be said straight away that it’s been worth the wait. Café Paranoia is a complete delight, stuffed with great playing and gorgeous melodies from Lutter, with admirable support from Thomas Hauser on bass and Sunk Poschl on drums. Some of the material is tricky, yet May carries it off in a light, hip, effortless style, putting over Murphy’s quirky wit and wisdom with terrific panache. There’s delicacy and vulnerability here too. I have never heard her sing better.
Age only matters if one is a cheese, begins one of the haikus. It was a one-liner Murphy enjoyed telling at gigs later in his career. Sleepy people don’t declare world wars, begins another. Some of the lyrics are splendidly anarchic, making poetic sense but no other kind: Alas awaste-but keep all that in / the devastated street speed, thanks a lot.
There are many tracks, too many to count. Eight of them are haikus, often less than a minute long. Others, such as Less And Less (I remember less and less/ - except you baby) are fully-fledged songs, this one Murphy’s lament for his gradually dimming faculties. Two tunes, the extended Dance Slowly and Formerly Known As Moon, were recorded live. May and Lutter have also contributed a couple of their own Murphy-influenced numbers. And in a fabulous ‘they think it’s all over’ moment right at the end… but I’ll let you find out for yourself.
Peter Jones’s "This Is Hip: The Life Of Mark Murphy" will be published by Equinox in 2018.