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"Celebrating Mark Murphy!," 2nd Annual Mark Murphy Love Fest, Set for Mon. Nov. 15 at Yoshi's (Oakland)

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Mark Murphy
Last year's “Celebrating Mark Murphy!" concert at Yoshi's Oakland was a highlight of the fall season—a benefit for the Jazzschool Institute's brand-new vocal jazz scholarship named for Murphy himself, one of the most original and gifted male jazz vocalists to perform over the last 50 years.

The event was such a success that the Jazzschool is presenting the 2nd annual Mark Murphy love fest on Monday, November 15 at 8:00 pm, at Yoshi's in Oakland. Featured vocalists at “Celebrating Mark Murphy!" will be Madeline Eastman, Laurie Antonioli, Kenny Washington, and Kellye Gray. They'll be working with a trio comprised of Matt Clark, piano; John Wiitala, bass; and Deszon Claiborne, drums.

“Mark Murphy is a trailblazer, he paved the way," states Eastman, who is the music director for the upcoming show. “Jazz singers always speak of him with enormous reverence. Mark went through many different musical phases, all based on his ever-evolving musical interests, but he has let his love of music and art be his guide. We plan on celebrating some of those phases at Yoshi's, including his love of Beat, Bop, and Brazilian music, and his exquisite taste in obscure ballads."

Eastman and Antonioli, along with Kitty Margolis, Ann Dyer, Bobbe Norris, and Joyce Cooling, performed at the 2009 concert. Each of these renowned Bay Area vocalists “grew up" under the wing of Murphy's mentorship. That concert provided an opportunity for this select group of singers to reunite and pay homage to their “Uncle Mark," said Margolis (who served as the '09 benefit's music director). “The Jazzschool scholarship is a way to 'pay it forward' a bit by nurturing some gifted emerging artists," Margolis added. The scholarship is intended to continue in perpetuity, supporting the tradition and future of vocal jazz.

“We all met Mark when he lived in San Francisco and sang regularly at the Dock in Tiburon," Eastman recalls. “None of us could believe our good fortune to have this innovator right in our own backyard. Every week, we all made our way to the 'Altar of Mark' and were lucky enough to sit in and sing with him. He taught us it was okay to sing with abandon!"

Laurie Antonioli, now the Director of the Vocal Program at the Jazzschool and a recording artist and label entrepreneur, recalls her own deep roots with Murphy: “When I was 19, Mark invited me to sing with him regularly at his gig in Tiburon. Since that time, Mark's influence has followed me wherever I go—and he has been generous in so many ways."

Kenny Washington is an acclaimed San Francisco-based vocalist who “embodies a lot of what Mark is all about," says Eastman. “A New Orleans native, he's steeped in the jazz tradition, he has terrific musical taste, and he's fearless."

Based in Austin, Texas, Kellye Gray is a frequent visitor to Bay Area stages. “She springs from that free, stream-of-consciousness place that Mark embodies," says Eastman. “She loves the wild ride and it's so much fun to see where she'll take a song."

“Creating a scholarship for the Jazzschool Institute vocal program in Mark Murphy's name not only speaks to the level of creativity we hope to foster at the school, but it allows us to honor Mark with our songs, our stories, and our gratitude," says Antonioli. “It's also a great excuse to invite some of the most creative jazz singers we know to the stage at Yoshi's for a concert that will surely inspire and entertain!"

Tickets are $25 ($15 for Jazzschool students with student ID) and are available by phone (510-238-9200) or online. Proceeds go toward the Mark Murphy Vocal Jazz Scholarship at Berkeley's Jazzschool. ($20 of ticket price is tax deductible.)

For more information about the Jazzschool or donating to the Mark Murphy Vocal Jazz Scholarship, please visit jazzschool.com or call 510-845-5373.

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