Clark Terry: Porgy & Bess (2004)
For the second time in a year, a major collaboration of Miles Davis-Gil Evans from the late 1950s has been repackaged with a new dressing. This venture is not another ho-hum guest shot from a jazz dignitary sitting in with an orchestra. Clark Terry lends not only his noted name but his distinctive talents to this project, and despite the many references to his advancing age and health problems in the media, he sounds robust on this recording at the age of 84.
Arranger and conductor Jeff Lindberg points out in the liners that while the Miles Davis original served to emphasize the despair of the Gershwin opera, Terry's work vastly opens the interpretation to a much wider range of emotional coloration, which is something that I had never considered over the past 45 years. Although uncredited in the liners, the Manhattan School of Music under the direction of Justin DiCiocicco and the participation of saxophonist Dave Liebman, released a similar project in 2003 which featured the original charts for the Davis/Evans album Sketches of Spain. So, in the course of twelve months, we've been treated to two examples of tampering with the past, and the result has been positive on both occasions. The sonics of the original Gil Evans arrangement was a state-of-the-art 1958 studio recording. Current technology places this recording on a much fuller plane and adds a richer and brighter sound.
There is an interesting personal connection between Clark Terry and Miles Davis. While he was a music student in St. Louis, Davis sought out Terry as an important influence. On this recording, Terry wisely makes no attempt to duplicate Miles's version of Porgy & Bess. His tone is a thing of beauty, whether on trumpet or flugelhorn, open or muted. Both of these trumpet legends had their own distinct and recognizable sound, and by the time the second track, "Bess, You Is My Woman Now," hits the ten second mark, you know that you're totally captivated by the updated arrangement. For the version of "Summertime," Terry also plays muted trumpet but not the patented Miles Harmon mute. This was the song that Jon Hendricks wrote a lyric for on the first Lambert, Hendricks & Ross Columbia album. Terry also gets a chance to briefly utilize his one-of-a-kind "Mumbles" vocal technique in "Here Come De Honey Man."
I am not enough of an archivist to match the 1958 original to this 2004 version and add up the pros and cons on an exact balance sheet. However, as a listener, I am pleased to report that the jury awards a positive decision to the work of Mssrs. Terry and Lindberg and the CJO for their heartfelt work.
Track Listing: Buzzard Song; Bess, You is My Woman Now; Gone; Gone, Gone, Gone; Summertime; Bess, Oh Where's My Bess?; Prayer (Oh, doctor Jesus); Fishermen, Strawberry and Devil Crab; My Man's Gone Now; It Ain't Necessarily So; Here Comes de Honey Man; I Loves you, Porgy; There's a Boat That's Leaving Soon for New York
Personnel: Clark Terry--trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals; Chicago Jazz Orchestra: Artistic Director and Conductor--Jeff Lindberg