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The French classical label Naive has made a successful foray into jazz with recordings like Mina Agossi's Red Eyes (2012); and Tania Maria's Tempo (2012). A Different Porgy and Another Bess is the first thematic big-band offering from the label. Drawing from the George Gershwin/DuBose Heyward opera, Porgy and Bess (1935), A Different Porgy highlights eleven vocal pieces from the book. The music performed by the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, under the direction Frank Vaganee, features David Linx in the role of Porgy and Maria Joao as Bess. The arrangements are bright and progressive, courtesy of a wide swath of people in and outside the band.
A portion of the eleven pieces chosen for recital are expected. "I Love You Porgy," "My Man is Gone Now," "I Got Plenty of Nothing" and "Summertime" are all present and accounted for. But there are also Lesser-heard songs here: "A Red-Headed Woman," "Oh Lord, I'm On My Way" and "Oh, Dr. Jesus" are included to great effect in breaking up preconceptions and expectations that might cloud a Porgy and Bess-based disc. That said, there is actually no danger in this simply being one more interpretation of an over-interpreted collection of songs; the songs' arrangers and the Brussels Jazz Orchestra see to that.
A first listen sounds like a wild ride in one of those hover-cars from Luc Besson's 1997 film, The Fifth Element. Songs that should be familiar sound about as foreign as they possibly can: think playing "The Maple Leaf Rag" backwards in the Star Wars (1977) bar scene. Well, maybe not that jarring, but certainly provocative. Subsequent listens bear out the relationships of these songs with those Gershwin penned. This is where the invention of arrangement and free spirit benefit the old book, making it new again. This, coupled with a crack and very big band, makes A Different Porgy and Another Bess a valuable contribution to understanding the evolution of jazz.
Track Listing: A Red-Headed Woman; A Woman is a Sometime Thing; I Love You, Porgy;
Buzzard Song; My Man is Gone Now; Oh Lord, I’m On My Way; Clara, Clara,
Don’t be Downhearted; Bess You Are My Woman Now; Oh Doctor Jesus; I’ve
Got Plenty of Nothing; Summertime.
Personnel: David Linx: vocals; Maria Joao: vocals; Frank Vaganee: artistic
director, lead alto and soprano saxophones, flute; Dieter Limbourg:
alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet, flute; Kurk Van Herck: tenor
saxophone, flute, clarinet; Bart Defoort: tenor saxophone, clarinet;
Bo Van Der Werf: baritone saxophone; bass clarinet; Serge Plume: lead
trumpet, flugelhorn; Nico Schepers: trumpet, flugelhorn; Pierre
Drevet: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jeroen Van Malderen: trumpet, flugelhorn;
Marc Godfroid: lead trombone; Lode Mertens: trombone; Ben Fleerakkers:
trombone; Laurent Hendrick: bass trombone; Hendrick Braeckman: guitar;
Nathalie Loriers: piano, Fender Rhodes; Jos Machtel: double bass;
Martijn Vink: drums; Chris Joris: congas; Carlo Willems: glockenspiel,
tam tam gong.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.