Pianist Greg Murphy can burn with the best of them. Referred to as “the embodiment of liquid flame” in Cadence Magazine, and having played with and been nurtured by great musicians representing the traditions of New Orleans, Chicago, and New York, Greg has developed his own voice, which truly makes him part of the jazz lineage. Add to that a compositional style that represents a variety of jazz traditions, a teaching style that adapts to the student, and a learning approach that embraces all possibilities, Greg has the whole package.
Greg was born in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada on December 1st 1959 and moved to Chicago with his family in 1960. He began his musical adventures at the age of eleven when he joined the Ray-Fisk Grammar School Band. His classical studies began later that year with Lucia Santini at Roosevelt University. Between 1980 and 1984, he played with the jazz/funk band LFTR, The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Big Band, The Northern Illinois University (NIU) Big Band, and other local Chicago bands.
After being awarded a jazz study grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984, Greg went to New Orleans to study with the eminent pianist and jazz educator, Ellis Marsalis. He decided to remain there and began recording and performing with The New Orleans Jazz Couriers, Percussion Incorporated, and his own group, The Fusicians. The percussion Incorporated album Drum Talk was recorded and released in 1987. While living in the crescent city, Greg performed with Donald Harrison, Wynton Marsalis, and countless other great musicians.
Greg moved to New York in 1987 and began what has become a long association with multi-directional drummer, Rashied Ali. Greg has been performing and recording with Ali and his various groups throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States, from 1987 to the present. One tour in 1990 featured Carlos Santana and Archie Shepp. During 1989, Greg went to Tokyo, Japan with his trio for two months, and toured the United States with a quartet. In 1990, saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman asked Greg to put together a rhythm section for a performance of Coleman’s new, jazz-funk original music. The month-long project resulted in a successful performance. Later that year, he led a septet (Club Bird Jazz All Stars) in Yokohama for three months, and in 1991 he performed solo in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada--where he was born. During this period he studied in New York City with Ron Carter and Jaki Byard at City College and The Manhattan School of Music, as well as privately with Larry Willis and Walter Bishop Jr. In 1995 and 1996, he recorded Meditations and Bells with Rashied Ali and Prima Materia on the Knitting Factory Works label. In 1999, Worldbeat records released A Mano with Raphael Cruz, and Heart Sound with Tisziji Munoz was released on the Anami record label. In 2001, No One in Particular, again with Ali, was released on the Survival record label, and Greg wrote the title tune. Let’s Get Started, his first recording as a leader, was released in 2004. Greg had a two-month engagement in Shanghai, Peoples Republic of China in 2005; then in May, 2006 he graduated from New Jersey City University where he received a Bachelors of Music Degree in Jazz Performance while studying piano and arranging with Allen Farnham and Pete McGuiness. Also in 2006, Greg’s CD Orientation was released on the Murphasaurus record label, coinciding with two new releases by The Rashied Ali Quintet: Judgment Day Vol. 1 and Judgment Day Vol. 2 on the Survival record label. All three of these releases received significant airplay and spent several weeks on the charts. In 2008 Raphael Cruz released his new CD Time Travel, and Greg launched a new online mp3 store called JazzIntensity.com.
At the present time, Greg continues to perform with his own group and other professionals in and around New York City and beyond. His future aspirations include continuing to perform and record, as well as having a prominent roll in the development of aspiring musicians.
Some of the other people Greg has played with are: Barry Altshul, Wes Anderson, Mickey Bass, Cindy Blackman, Terrence Blanchard, T. K. Blue, Hammiet Blueitt, Don Braden, George Braithwait, John Brown, Iris Chacon, Alan Chase, Ravi Coltrane, Harry Conick, Jr., Jesse Davis, Steve Davis, Andy Eulau, Flava Flav, Al Foster, Mat Garrison, Charles Gayle, Victor Goines, Ray Gomez, Roy Hargrove, Winard Harper, Vincent Herring, Tim Horner, David Jensen, Victor Jones, Frank Lacey, Joe Lovano, Branford and Delfayo Marsalis, Christian McBride, Charles McPherson, Tyler Mitchell, Grachan Moncur, III, T. S. Monk, Wilbur Morris, Steve Neil, Charles Nevile, William Parker, Don Pate, C. C. Peniston, Arthur Rhames, Larry Ridley, Dale Robbins, Jay Rodriguez, Antoine Roney, Bill Saxton, Ron Sutton, Lew Tabackin, Arthur Taylor, James Blood Ulmer, Reginald Veal, Bill Ware, David S. Ware, Willie Williams, Frank Wright, Al & Ruth Wright, Eric Wyatt, and Kiani Zawadi.
Some recordings get me within the first seconds of listening, that’s the case with Greg Murphy’s Orientation. The first cut, Triple Dipple, opens with a creative energy which is surged by multiple time feels and meter changes. The groove is positive and engaging. The solo’s are masterful, which leads me as a listener right through the entire disc of music. I was thoroughly entertained and the music created an eagerness in me to want to see this band “live” the next time I was in NYC!
Murphy is truly fine keyboardist with [an]excellent background. As many great instrumentalists, Murphy is drawn by the keyboard masters from various era’s. I know this because the nature of his compositions [displayed] this on this recording. He is as comfortable on grand piano as a multitude of keyboard instruments. Many people try to perform in many contrasting genres, but few attain to convincing performances. Murphy and gang do this in convincing style.
Quality recordings have the necessary contrasts that draw their listeners to their music. Murphy’s other compositions include Trane’s Mode” which is a minor blues, which has a strong post-bop flavor. The variety continues as Murphy shows several different sides of his musical personality. Two fusion numbers dominated by keyboards and electric bass, “Puffin Land” and “Alternate Voices”, form a break between the acoustic sections. My favorite tracks are Murphy’s solo piano standards, ballads “I Thought About You” and “What’s New”. He displays fine touch and sensitivity. Most impressive, he show’s that he is at home in these traditional mainstream styles as well as the more modern modal music.
There are other fine performances by the other instrumentalists on this disc. It is a fine ensemble. All the players are fine soloists and ensemble musicians. The group plays with a passion and groove which draws the audience into each performance.
It’s refreshing to hear musicians who play and perform in a manner that reflects the natural evolution of Jazz, without losing originality, while creating their own voice in music! Murphy is one of those people.
- Rick Holland
Jazz Radio 24 seven August 2006
Triple Dipple / Orientation / Trane’s Mode / I Thought About You
/ Keeping It Simple / Puffin Land / Alternate Voices / What’s New
/ Cedar Salad / A Strain From Wayne. 51:39.
Murphy, p, kybd; Raphael Cruz, perc; Alex Hernandez,
b; Noel Sagerman, d; Lawrence Clark, ts. April 5, May 9,
2005, Hampton, NJ.
Funny thing about Greg Murphy’s second release under his own name: With the exception of the chestnut “I Thought About You,” the first half dozen or so songs had me hooked, line and sinker as they say. His “Sahara”-era Tyner intensity and quicksilver Latin-fusion compositions hit me as a heady mix of technical wow and intellectual depth.
But then came tracks six and seven with their cheesy, wheezy electro-keyboards, a real turn-off considering the bulk of the first half of the program. And Murphy—who really is a fine pianist, and one who has recorded extensively with Rashied Ali—me thinks should not be tackling solo the likes of ballads like “What’s New” and the aforementioned Van Heusen/Mercer number; he relies far too heavily on sheen over substance.
That said, throw a tongue-twisting, rapid-fire chart at this son of a gun and watch out—he can burn with the best of them. And did I mention, his band is the embodiment of liquid flame? Well they are, and so is Murphy, which is why one should keep posted.
- Charles Winokoor
Cadence Magazine, February 2007
GREG MURPHY Orientation (Murphasaurus)
This is an initiation, direction and perspective on the music of a great pianist and his life-long venture. It’s the sort of proper jazz LP that I love discovering completely by accident. First and foremost, if you are a fan of true jazz then you need to discover this new CD from the New Jersey pianist Greg Murphy.
Since the age of eleven Greg has embarked on a journey studying, touring, gaining notoriety and recording with a HUGE list of incredible musicians such as Archie Shepp, Wynton Marsalis, Rashied Ali, Ravi Coltrane, Roy Hargrove, Santana, Christian McBride, Ornette Coleman, Larry Willis, Larry Ridley, Flava Flav…Musically, ‘Orientation’ is all about the independent label concept, not over polished – organic expression for spiritual beings. There are five great musicians on here that just create an arcadia for me on tracks like the fiery ‘Triple Dipple,’ ‘Keeping It Simple,’ ‘A Strain from Wayne’ and, of course, the title track. What a majestic tune!
- Raggy Offlimitsradio.com
Straight No Chaser Autumn 2006 (UK)
This album is a miscellany of at least four things, all of them competent, none of them distinguished. First is Greg Murphy’s Coltrane bag. He has played piano with the saxophone legend’s last drummer, Rashied Ali, for nearly 20 years, so his Coltrane connection is real. Murphy’s quintet has tenor saxophonist Lawrence Clark, who can channel Coltrane with stunning verisimilitude. Murphy does a very credible McCoy Tyner, too. Derivativeness notwithstanding, the group’s familiarity with this music and their passion for it make pieces like “Trane’s Mode” fun. (The visceral in-your-face recorded sound of engineer Paul Wickliffe also aids the cause.)
The second, Murphy’s piano-trio-ballad persona, is perhaps the best. “I Thought About You” and “What’s New” are never startling, but Murphy’s percussive touch gives their rhapsodic intensity an aggressive, chiseled quality.
The third and fourth items—Murphy’s Latin and electric jazz fusion projects—are less interesting. “Keeping It Simple” fulfills the promise of its title all too well. “Alternate Voices” offers minimal musical content amid its electronic swirls and washes. Fortunately, we are spared the clichéd commonplaces and strained rhymes of the song’s lyrics, which appear only in the liner notes.
Jazz Times September 2006
Pianist Greg Murphy’s Orientation contains attractive original tunes delivered by a top-notch mainstream quintet. It opens with a bang with his kinetic, latin-flavored “Triple Dipple” which tumbles along in 6/8, driven by a simple but appealing melody in Lawrence Clark’s tenor sax. The three-feel of the meter soon alternates with swing, and uptempo bop sections in four-time, the effortless transitions revealing a deftly synchronous unit. (Alex Hernandez on bass and Noel Sagerman on drums [Raphael Cruz on percussion] complete the group.)
The title track is built in a seemingly irregular form with modal sections of syncopated, dense piano chords shifting colorfully between major and minor, while “Trane’s Mode” is a bop blues with a chord progression carrying a scent of Coltrane’s classic “Mr. P.C.”. The variety continues as Murphy shows several different sides of his musical personality. Two fusion numbers dominated by keyboards and electric bass, “Puffin Land” and “Alternate Voices”, form a break between the acoustic sections, while on two fine solo piano standards, the ballads “I Thought About You” and “What’s New”, Murphy carries the melodies firmly yet fluidly on top of full, ten-fingered textures.
June 2006 ALLABOUTJAZZ-NEW YORK
“…A brilliant new jazz LP,
Orientation, by *Greg Murphy* from NYC
with some glorious piano led
Latin jazz dance tracks”
-Off Limits Radio with Raggy (UK)
“Incredible New York City pianist
Greg Murphy brings new tracks to radioioJazz...
his album 'orientation' is absolutely amazing...”
“The CD is killin. Really…this is great.”
WRCT Pittsburgh, PA
“Niiiiiiice!…It sounds great!”
KNTU, Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
“Great record!!!!! Will be adding it for our jazz program.”
- Peter Solomon
WCVE, Richmond, VA
“I second Peter [Solomon’s] opinion. I will sure give this CD more spins.”
- Joost van Steen
Jazz & Blues Tour, The Netherlands
“Very impressive release.”
- Larry Dane-Kellogg
WHCJ, Savannah, GA
“…A terrific album…wonderful work.”
Anything Goes!! With Lise Avery
Internationally Syndicated Radio
“A breath of fresh Air”
- Bobby Jackson
WCPN, Cleveland, OH
“Pianist Greg Murphy’s new release, “Orientation” is hot stuff! Greg demonstrates his considerable keyboard style with a mix of straight ahead, bop, funk/fusion and for good measure, throws in a couple of very tasty ballads (‘What's New’ and ‘I Thought About You’).
“All done very nicely and very listenable, but the straight ahead/bop arena is where Greg really cooks (would you expect anything less with song titles such as ‘Triple Dipple’, ‘Cedar Salad’ and ‘A Strain From Wayne’?).
“If this one isn't on your shelf, sell your CD player!”
- "Dr. Bob," Modernjazzclassics.com
This is a tightly woven [quintet] led by Canadian-born and New York-based Greg Murphy. Throughout Murphy's career, he has been associated with a most diversified roster of musicians, from Ellis Marsalis to Carlos Santana, Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman and Barry Altschul and Harry Connick! In his CD Orientation, Murphy focuses mainly on his Latin, bop and electronics sides.
"Triple Dipple's" hot introduction immediately sets the mood of the piece and establishes the varied and virile pace of the album as a whole. The A section is pure Latin jazz based on a very simple and straight melodic line. It is segued by an eight-bar improvised saxophone solo on the B section, setting an interesting contrast between the two sections of the tune.
The eponymous "Orientation" features a noteworthy acoustic bass solo by Alex Hernandez (also featured on electric bass on "Keeping it Simple") who gives the best of himself in this piece played in [quartet] format. "Trane's Mode" pays homage to John Coltrane's "Mister PC." It illustrates well the leader's predilection for high energy tunes. Reverting to the quartet format, the theme is played in unison by piano and saxophone, very much in keeping with the Coltrane spirit. In this cut, the pianist's phrases are longer and more structured. Special mention should be made of the hot 12-bar exchanges between Lawrence Clark's saxophone and Noel Sagerman's drums.
"Cedar Salad" once again features Lawrence Clark's saxophone, with a few nods at George coleman and John Coltrane. The straight-ahead theme, played in a medium tempo groove, is exposed in unison by piano and saxophone. Clark's fluid solo is especially impressive. "A Strain from Wayne" played by piano, bass and drums, [and percussion] concludes the CD and takes the listener back to the pulsating ambience of the album's opener.
Not content to just demonstrate his jazz chops on the aforementioned pieces, Greg Murphy adds two electric jazz fusion works ("Puffin Land," "Alternate Voices") and two evergreens from the standard repertoire (Jimmy Van Heusen's "I Thought About You," Bob Haggard's "What's New") to his versatile and rich musical palette. Steeped in the piano solo tradition, the latter two are played straight and simple, with no superfluous frills or unnecessary adornments. Murphy offers a mix of Latin, fusion, bop, jazz standards and a host of swinging and original tunes on Orientation!
By Lilian Dericq, Jazz Improv, Spring 2007