John Murphy | UNT

Fall 2016 classes


John Murphy, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair, Division of Jazz Studies

Office: Music Building 266

Phone: (940) 565-4344 (email is preferred)


Mailing address:

1155 Union Circle #311367

Denton TX 76203-5017


"Lovely Ever After" by Rosana Eckert from her faculty recital on Sept. 16, 2014.

"Bossa Nossa" (my original), excerpt from performance on recital at UNT on Sept. 11, 2011 with Dan Haerle, piano; Fred Hamilton, guitar; Lynn Seaton, bass; José Aponte, drumset; Jorge Ginorio, percussion. mp3

"Along Came Betty" with Mike Steinel, Stefan Karlsson, Lynn Seaton, Ed Soph. 2005. I composed the new rhythms for the shout section. mp3

Two originals recorded with the Alternative Jazz Sextet: Dave Zoller, piano; Drew Phelps, bass; Greg Waits, trombone; Mark Gulley, drums; Aaron Irwinsky, saxophone.
"Evening Raga" (my original) mp3 (I solo on tenor first, Aaron second)

"Into the Stream" (my original) mp3 (soprano: Aaron; I solo on tenor)

"Garota de Miraflores" (my original) with José Luis Madueño (piano), Jeffry Eckels (bass), José Aponte (drums). Lima, Perú, April 18, 2008. mp3

"Lennie's Pennies" with the above group minus piano, same concert. mp3

To see how the Frank Trumbauer solo on "Singin' the Blues" sounds on alto saxophone and C melody saxophone, I recorded it on each instrument:
C melody


A briefer and more conventional bio is here.

Without a publicist or biographer to write this in the third person, will write this in first person. If English verb inflection indicated the grammatical person clearly like and Portuguese and Spanish do, it would prevent us from having to write the first-person pronoun each time (for the curious). When novice Spanish speakers do that too much, it's frowned on and labeled "yo-ismo." This is written in a way that avoids I-ismo.

Current title is professor and chair in the Jazz Studies Division; from June 2012-May 2013, served as Interim Director of Graduate Studies while continuing to teach and serve as chair of Jazz Studies. Teach jazz history (undergraduate and master's), jazz styles and analysis (master's), and jazz research methods (master's and doctoral). Served as Chair of the Division of Music History, Theory, and Ethnomusicology during the 2006-7 and 2007-8 academic years, and began serving as interim chair of Jazz Studies in August 2008; voted into a three-year term as chair in spring 2009, then another one, then another. Still chair, in other words.

Discovered my love for jazz in early teens by listening to the Saturday night radio broadcasts by Benny Kearse and Vernon Welsh of the Left Bank Jazz Society in my native Baltimore. Attended the Sunday evening concerts (5 until 9) at the Famous Ballroom (ceiling painted blue, with silver stars, bake sale, seating around round tables and long tables; seated at a round table one time, met Mercer Ellington) sponsored by the Left Bank, heard Dexter Gordon (right around the time of Homecoming, several times--really made a strong impression), Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Phil Woods, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Sun Ra and his Arkestra, Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin, Bobby Watson, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. While in high school and attending Peabody Preparatory Department on Saturdays, played baritone saxophone in the Peabody Conservatory Jazz Ensemble; one concert with the group was under the direction of Gunther Schuller and shared the program with Eubie Blake and the Peabody Ragtime Ensemble. Attended one Kenton Clinic at Towson University, heard Roy Reynolds solo on tenor. Heard the Count Basie orchestra with Count Basie in Salisbury, MD and Keith Jarrett in a solo concert at Carter-Barron amphitheatre in Washington, D.C. Also played garage (actually, basement) cover band rock, original rock, and funk (in one of those 12-piece funk bands with horns playing EW&F, P-Funk, Stevie Wonder) in clubs in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Ethnomusicologist and saxophonist. Joined the UNT Jazz Studies faculty in 2001. Published two books: Music in Brazil (2006) in the Oxford University Press Global Music Series (site for the book), and Cavalo-marinho pernambucano (University Press of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, 2008), the Portuguese translation of my dissertation. Speak fluent Portuguese. Published articles on jazz improvisation, Brazilian traditional and popular music, Cuban music in New York, and college teaching. Spent 1990-91 in Brazil on a Fulbright Fellowship, with my family (wife, kids then aged 2 and 2 months, researching Brazilian traditional music, especially cavalo-marinho, a musical drama in oral tradition performed by people who cut sugar cane for a living). Spent the 2000-2001 academic year in Recife, Brazil on a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, with my family (wife, kids then aged 12, 10, 7), doing research on Brazilian popular music and globalization, studying the Northeast Brazilian button accordion style, and producing two video projects (documentary on accordionist Arlindo dos Oito Baixos, making-of videos for Pernambuco em Concerto DVD). Wrote "Beyond the Improvisation Class: Learning to Improvise in a University Jazz Studies Curriculum," which began as a paper presented at "New Directions in the Study of Improvisation: An Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Conference," held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in April 2004, and revised it for publication in Musical Improvisation: Art, Education, and Society, edited by Bruno Nettl and Gabriel Solis (site for the book). In Spring 2007, moderated a series of six jazz film showings and discussions at the Dallas Public Library as part of the "Looking At: Jazz" series. Conducted a series of interiews with Ronald Shannon Jackson. In fall 2010 presented a paper with Kris Chesky on ethnomusicologists and noise-induced hearing loss at the Society for Ethnomusicology annual meeting in Los Angeles.

Perform often on tenor and alto saxophone. Tenor is a vintage Selmer (serial no. 35xxx) that Dave Liebman played on Elvin Jones's Live at the Lighthouse. Performance that were the result of my faculty affiliation (not because they called me for the gig, in other words): with the UNT Jazz Faculty small group on the Maria Schneider concert at UNT in March 2003; at the North Texas Jazz Festival at Addison in April 2003, 2005-2008; with Dave Douglas at UNT in February 2004; with Jimmy Cobb in Denton in April 2004; with Peter Erskine in 2012; and at the Denton Arts & Jazz Festival in 2003-2014. Subbed once on the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 2007. Led groups at the Denton festival in 2003 and 2004. In April 2008 played five concerts and held master classes along with José Aponte (drums) and Jeffry Eckels (bass) in Lima, Cusco, and Arequipa, Perú as part of Jazz Appreciation Month, sponsored by U.S. State Dept. Played a set with Eddie Gomez and Duduka da Fonseca with Stefan Karlsson in October 2008 when both were guests of Stefan and the small group program, and on a program of Mike Steinel's big band music in March 2009. In May-June 2009, played concerts and club gigs in Guangzhou and Shanghai, China with Landon Mattox (guitar), Cyrille Briegel (bass), and Rafael "Xiao Bai" Lee (drums). Played again in Shanghai in 2010 with UNT students at East China Normal University. Traveled to Colombia in June 2012 with a student quartet to play concerts and offer masterclasses in Medellín and Manizalles. In November, played six concerts in São Paulo and neighboring cities in Brazil. In March 2013 visited Universidade Federal de Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil to give talks on ethnomusicology and jazz and play a concert with the jazz band. In spring 2011, started weekly music series at UNT on the Square in Denton; this continues to the present. Have played second alto sax in the Original Texas Jazz Orchestra, directed by Jim Riggs. Former member of Dallas-based Steely Dan tribute band Naked Lunch. In 2012, began serious study of Irish traditional music on button accordion (B/C tuning). Attend Irish sessions in Dallas regularly, attend the yearly O'Flaherty Irish Music Retreat, and host a session on second and fourth Saturdays from 3-5 p.m. at Sweetwater in Denton.

While a student at the University of North Texas, earned two degrees (B.M., jazz studies performance, 1984; M.M., music theory, 1986), played in the One O'Clock Lab Band (1984-85) and Two O'Clock Lab Band (1982-1984), studied saxophone with James Riggs, and free-lanced in Dallas-Ft. Worth (including two weeks in Cal Lewiston's big band at the Fairmont Hotel, backing up Ella Fitzgerald, soloing on "Cherokee"). Then earned two degrees at Columbia University (M.A. 1988, Ph.D. 1994, both in ethnomusicology), played Latin music (mostly merengue) around New York, worked as an intern at the Ford Foundation one summer doing research on the arts of new Americans, and heard all kinds of music.

Have taught at the UNT Small Group Jazz Workshop in 2001-2 and 2004-15. Served as web editor for the Society for Ethnomusicology from 1997 to 2002, and taught previously at Western Illinois University (1992-2001; music theory & appreciation, jazz improvisation, ethnomusicology, American popular music).

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