During an era when there is a shortage of significant male jazz and cabaret singers, Todd Murray has emerged as a notable interpreter of standards, newer material, and his own originals. Blessed with a deep baritone voice, Todd is an intimate performer who excels on romantic ballads, swings at every tempo, and does justice to the lyrics that he sings. His 2010 recording, Stardust & Swing, is filled with his subtle creativity and sincere emotions. The repertoire ranges from such vintage tunes as “Dream A Little Dream Of Me,” and “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams” to his own “Patricia” and “The Girl From Waco.”
Born in a small farming community in Pennsylvania, Murray sang as a child in church, chorus, and school plays. He listened to the pop music and light rock of the time. As a junior in high school, he learned many older standards from his aunt who played stride piano. Driven to succeed and determined to raise money for his college education, Todd auditioned successfully for the group Re-Creation.
"We traveled around the nation singing at fairs, concerts, VA hospitals and a wide variety of venues,” remembers Todd. “We performed 300 times a year and the shows were fully choreographed with costumes, scenery and sound. We had a sacred show for churches that included contemporary Christian and gospel music, and a secular one of American pop music and country. It was a great education for me.”
While attending a private university in central Pennsylvania Todd learned a great deal about the music business. After graduating, he worked as a singer and actor in many different settings. Todd performed regularly at Opryland USA, spent six months singing at Disneyland in Tokyo, and did summer stock theatre in Pennsylvania. He moved to New York, performed many roles at Paper Mill Playhouse including the lead in Gilbert and Sullivan’s THE GONDOLIERS, and was in the first Broadway touring company of THE SECRET GARDEN. Todd also was a lead singer on the luxury cruise line Royal Viking, sang backup for many Nashville singers and had his own country act. After moving to Los Angeles, he owned his own successful bread bakery.
After selling his business and returning to music on a fulltime basis, Todd Murray has gained a strong reputation in the musical theatre, jazz, and cabaret world.
“I did a production of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING that was set in the 1920s. They wanted me to sing in a Bing Crosby style, and it gave me the opportunity to perform many older standards. It was there that I met Dennis McCarthy, who arranged and conducted the music for my two CDs.” Todd’s first cabaret show, “Let’s Face the Music,” was followed by “When I Sing Low: Romance In A Different Key.”
His debut solo CD, also titled When I Sing Low, features Murray’s baritone accompanied by an orchestra that is essentially a big band with strings. McCarthy and Tom Ranier (who contributed three charts) wrote the arrangements and most of the songs are timeless standards. Sue Raney interacts happily with Todd on a vocal duet version of “Just In Time.” “Where Or When” is given a particularly inventive and beautiful arrangement by McCarthy. The catchy “Could ‘Ja,” which has Todd joined by three background singers, is one of his favorite numbers on the set. He is only the third vocalist to perform the superior obscurity, following Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. Another highlight is Todd’s original “When I Sing Low.” “Since I have a baritone voice and the tenor became king during the past couple of decades, there are not a lot of roles in new productions for me because so many are geared for high voices. It led to me writing ‘When I Sing Low.’” The witty piece sums up the virtue of baritone singers.
The release of When I Sing Low led to a higher profile on the cabaret circuit in New York and Los Angeles. He performed for the first time at the New York Cabaret Convention, and shared his music in Switzerland, as well as Palm Springs. Todd’s second offering, Stardust & Swing, utilizes a similar instrumentation as the previous album, has arrangements by Dennis McCarthy, Dan Higgins and Ladd McIntosh and like When I Sing Low, was recorded at the legendary Capitol Records Studios.
“The criteria for the CD was to perform songs that I consider great, tunes that elicit a sense of well being and happiness. ‘Stardust’ is among the most recorded songs but, even after hearing it so many times, I still love it… the same case with ‘Dream A Little Dream Of Me,’ which I first heard Mama Cass sing although it is a much older song.” Other standards that Todd revives and infuses with new life include “Moonlight Becomes You,” “I Wanna Be Around,” “Teach Me Tonight” (with singer Marilyn Maye), and a clever male duo rendition of “If I Ruled The World” (with Broadway’s Douglas Sills). In addition, Todd contributed two new songs, “Patricia” and “The Girl From Waco” that could easily be mistaken for 1930s standards.