Arranger/recomposer David Berger's music is likely to prompt mixed reactions for its mixing of traditional values with creative originality, somewhat akin to Ted Turner's colorizing of classic black and white films. Colorizing the Classics is a big-band follow-up to I Had the Craziest Dream (Such Sweet Thunder, 2008), an octet outing also championing the works of Harry Warren, an important but under-recognized composer of movie musicals.
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.
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).
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.
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!
Get more of a good thing
Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.