Lend Me a Bass-Baritone
As an antidote to the tenors of the times, Todd Murray sings sweet and low on his debut CD.
When I first met Todd Murray at the Cabaret Symposium at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT a few years ago and heard him sing there, the first thing that struck me was his vocal range: He was, and is, a bass-baritone in a field that happens to be overrun with tenors. (By the way, how many tenors does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two: One to attempt it and another to look on and snidely remark, "It's too high for you.")
In an effort to separate Murray's debut CD from the rest of the pack, he and his marketers have wisely chosen to stress that he sings well within or below the staff of the treble clef. In fact, the CD is titled When I Sing Low, which is also the title of a bouncy, infectious song with music and lyrics by Murray that is included herein. Of course, the fact that the singer has a low voice would not mean much if it weren't also an attractive, versatile, communicative voice. Fortunately, it is all of these things.
Murray's musical theater background is reflected in the inclusion of several standards from Broadway shows--e.g., "They Say It's Wonderful" (from Annie Get Your Gun), "Just in Time (from Bells Are Ringing), and "Losing My Mind" (from Follies). Some of these are rendered at least partly in a crooning, light jazz style that may not be to the taste of those who prefer a more theatrical approach. But fear not: Murray has the voice to really open up and bring a song home when he wants to, as in the climax of "Where or When" (from Babes in Arms).
In truth, Murray sounds quite different in various cuts (and in various sections of various cuts), which helps the disc as a whole to avoid any sense of monotony. The presentation of sad, lovelorn ballads like "If I Ever Say I'm Over You" (John Bucchino), "I Get Along Without You Very Well" (Hoagy Carmichael), and "When Autumn Comes" (music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Jack Murphy) interspersed with up-tempo ditties like "Could 'ja" (music by Carl Fischer, lyrics by Bill Carey) and that charming title song further lends the CD a wonderful sense of variety. Murray's smooth, mellifluous tones are showcased to great advantage in the romantic selections while his excellent phrasing and his ability to persuasively act a song is evident on items like the Bucchino number.
Not incidentally, the album features a real orchestra--with real strings!--under musical director Dennis McCarthy. Thoroughly enjoyable on its own terms, When I Sing Low definitely piques one's interest as to what will happen next in Todd Murray's still young, highly promising career.