David Berger Jazz Orchestra: Colorizing the Classics: David Berger's Tribute to Harry Warren (2010)
Digging through the Warren family archives, Berger discovered a trove of forgotten melodies, most untitled, many half-finished, and fleshed out these themes with original orchestrations and newly composed lyrics by Paul Mendenhall. Berger's craftsmanship, honed through transcriptions and rearrangements of the Ellington/Strayhorn songbook for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, is impeccable and Mendenhall's words faithfully recapture the historical mise-en-scene. The charts are executed with aplomb, in part because they have been thoroughly test-driven during the orchestra's old Tuesday night slot at Birdland and vocalists Denzal Sinclaire and Freda Payne, recalling Nat "King" Cole and Ella Fitzgerald, respectively, give the performances a retro-yet-novel character.
The soloing is largely swing-infused, with nods to the moderns, as on "I'm Sorry," whose melody sounds more than a little like Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" yet includes a Charlie Parker quote in Jay Brandford's alto sax solo, or "Hard To Get," where the bebop intro leads to a theme that could have been a Swing Era hit, complemented by Dan Block's sweet 'n' low clarinet, a velvety saxophone soli and hot soloing in the brass. The section-to-section interplay, often led by the reeds, is excellent throughout, especially on the closing track, an instrumental version of "Hard to Get" that blends all of the elements into a polychromatic palette of compelling hues, a strong argument that "colorizing" the classics has it merits.
Track Listing: Me and You; I Wonder Who; With Your Hand in Mine (instrumental); Positano Afternoon; Double Trouble (instrumental); Sing Me a Love Song; I'm Sorry (instrumental); Hard to Get (vocal); There Is No Music (vocal); But Here We Are (vocal); With Your Hand in Mine (vocal); I'm Sorry (vocal); But Here We Are (instrumental); Double Trouble (vocal); Hard To Get (instrumental).
Personnel: David Berger: arranger/conductor; Jay Brandford: reeds; Matt Hong: reeds; Dan Block: reeds; Mark Hynes: reeds; Carl Maraghi: reeds; Bob Millikan: trumpet; Brian Pareschi: trumpet; Irv Grossman: trumpet; Brandon Lee: trumpet; Scott Wenholt: trumpet; Wayne Goodman: trombone; Ryan Keberle: trombone; Jeff Bush: trombone; Isaac ben Ayala: piano; Yasushi Nakamura: bass; Jimmy Madison: drums.
Record Label: Such Sweet Thunder
Style: Big Band