Dennis Murphy channels Sinatra for CD release party.
Thursday, June 9, 2005
In his role as regional director for JazzMasters, a nonprofit that brings music education to underprivileged youth, Dennis Murphy, local musician and showman extraordinaire, occasionally encounters timid young players. He says he has a way of coaxing out their courage.
“I tell my kids, ‘We are all capable of everything,’” the Salinas-born Murphy says. “I say: ‘Assume your importance.’ I’m not excluded.”
Murphy is poised to prove it.
His musical capabilities are already the stuff of local legend. After touring the country for a few years with the contemporary jazz supergroup Acoustic Alchemy, he’s installed himself in local music consciousness with regular gigs at Sly McFly’s and the Embassy Suites. But he’s always wanted to go bigger. Even if others didn’t think he had it in him.
“For years I wanted to sing with a Big Band,” he says, “But nobody wanted to do it or let me do it for them.”
So Murphy set out to do it himself, in a big way, remaking some of the most treasured tracks in American music history with Rediscovery, an energizing nine-song set of Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin classics.
He then gathered a blockbuster 18-piece Big Band—what Murphy calls “a wall of sound”—to celebrate Rediscovery’s release at the Embassy Suites this Sunday. The band includes John Ferraro, who for 18 years played drums while on tour with Larry Carlton; Bill Armstrong, who has lent his talents for the trumpet to the Eagles, among others; and Tower of Power’s lead tenor sax man Tom Politzer.
Politzer jumped at the opportunity to take part. “I looked at all the players,” he says, “and told Dennis, ‘Sign me up!’”
“There aren’t too many bands where you hear 15 horns blowing at you,” adds Politzer, who as first sax will be positioned smack dab in the middle of the band. “I wish people could sit where I sit.”
Politzer’s excitement wasn’t the only emotion he felt. When Murphy told him who would be fronting the band, he says his reaction was, “What?”
“I was very surprised,” says Politzer. “That he wanted to do this is very cool.”
Murphy admits other colleagues also expressed surprise. “I told one of my friends about the show and he said, ‘You’re gonna need some singers.’”
A listen to Rediscovery should help put doubters at ease: Murphy’s vocals shift smoothly between frisky, light-hearted grooves like “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” and more soulful tracks like “The Best is Yet to Come.”
And while Murphy’s self-described mission “to sing ‘Summer Wind’ with 13 horns kicking my ass,” appears a dramatic departure from his bluesy belting with the Dennis Murphy Band, certain signature qualities remain.
A local music scene lifer, the party is decidedly community-centered. Only through extended local collaboration and strong support from local business sponsors has Murphy been able to realize his desire not to “rival Rod Stewart” (the ageless rocker who has made three recent albums interpreting classic American pop) but to offer Monterey County quality Big Band sound. As Murphy says, “I’m just a local yokel, a homeboy. The inspiration is to express myself on [different] levels locally.”
The party is also predicated upon Murphy’s showmanship—his ability to, as Politzer says, “get the audience on their feet.” A whole Peninsula sub-population of jazz, blues and R&B fans knows no one better for the part.
And, of course, a critical Murphy quality drives the whole production, namely, his desire to show just what he’s capable of.
THE REDISCOVERY RELEASE PARTY STARTS 5:30PM SUNDAY; MUSIC STARTS AT 6PM in THE EMBASSY SUITES’ GRAND BALLROOM IN SEASIDE. $25/AT DO RE MI MUSIC, GADSBY'S MUSIC CO., THE BOOKMARK AND BAY BOOKS; $30/AT THE DOOR. ENTRANCE INCLUDES A SIGNED CD. 455-8218.