Mark Masters Ensemble: Porgy & Bess Redefined! (2005)
Well, they said it couldn't be done, but he did it. Arranger Mark Masters has breathed new and refreshing life into Gershwin's Porgy & Bess. Just when you thought Miles may have had the last word back in '61, Masters adds a touch of Mingus, a sprig of Kenton, and songs that you've heard a thousand times sound new and enticing.
As with any stage production, it sure helps to have the right cast, and Masters has a dandy. Supported by trombones and French horn, Billy Harper tears his tenor through "Summertime." Trombonist Dave Woodley evokes images of Jimmie Knepper with Mingus during the torrential rhythmic shifts. Gary Smulyan coaxes visceral emotions out of his baritone as he pleads through "I Loves You, Porgy," always backed up by flute and muted trumpets. Tim Hagans soars over delicate chordings on "A Woman Is a Sometime Thing." But the real tour-de-force is an unforgettable "It Ain't Necessarily So," with Hagans swaggering over the propulsive rhythm provided by Joe La Barbera. All throughout the session, Masters keeps the Evans-like voicings from being predictable by continuously shifting rhythms.
Masters has put together a band and a production with a lot of promise. Big band fans and Gershwin fans alike should definitely dig around for this one.
Track Listing: Introduction; Summertime; Woman Is a Sometime Thing; Gone, Gone, Gone; My Man's Gone Now; It Ain't Necessarily So; Here Comes De Honey; I Loves You, Porgy; Red Headed Woman; Clara, Clara; There's a Boat.
Personnel: Billy Harper: tenor saxophone; Tim Hagans, Les Lovitt, Tom Delibero, Louis Fasman: trumpet; Dave Woodley, Les Benedict: trombone; William Roper: tuba; Stephanie O'Keefe: French horn; John Riley: bassoon; Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone; Cecilia Coleman: piano; Ray Drummond: bass; Joe La Barbera: drums; Don Shelton: flute, tenor saxophone; Bob Carr: bass clarinet.