David Berger Octet: I Had the Craziest Dream

Jack Bowers By

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David Berger Octet
I Had the Craziest Dream
Such Sweet Thunder

Composer / arranger / scholar / historian / educator David Berger, who uses groups of various sizes to adorn his musical framework, has chosen an octet to record I Had the Craziest Dream, subtitled The Music of Harry Warren. If you're thinking "Harry who?," think instead "Chattanooga Choo-Choo," "Lulu's Back in Town," "There Will Never Be Another You," "At Last," "I've Got a Gal in Kalmazoo," "The More I See You," "Lullaby of Broadway," "This Heart of Mine," "You're My Everything," "At Last," "My Heart Tells Me," "I Wish I Knew"—a sketchy inventory at best of Warren's treasury of memorable songs that are not on this album. But have no fear; those that are here more than make up for their absence.

Warren, working primarily with lyricists Al Dubin or Mack Gordon, was one of Hollywood's most talented and prolific composers in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, as well as one of its most anonymous, at least outside the industry itself. As he once cynically observed, "Even my friends have never heard of me." But those who never heard of Harry Warren definitely heard his music, and are hearing it still, nearly three decades after his passing in 1981. Warren earned the first of his three Academy Awards for best song in 1935 with "Lullaby of Broadway." Two of the songs on this date—"You'll Never Know" (1943), "Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe" (1946)—also won Oscars, while several others were nominated. There's even one (trombonist Marshall Gilkes' feature, "Summer Night") that was unfamiliar. Rest easy; it's definitely in the same league as the others.

As for Berger's octet, that it is anchored by saxophone wizards Harry Allen (tenor) and Joe Temperley (baritone) is an assurance in itself. On the other hand, the remaining six players are admirable in their own right. Besides Gilkes, they include saxophonist Matt Hong (showcased on alto on "September in the Rain"), trumpeter Brian "Fletch" Pareschi ("Serenade in Blue") and a blue-ribbon rhythm section (pianist Isaac ben Ayala, bassist Yasushi Nakamura, drummer Jimmy Madison). Ayala is also a splendid soloist, as he proves on the bluesy "Atchison, Topeka" and "Summer Night," while Nakamura has his moments in the sun on "I Only Have Eyes for You" and "I'm an Old Cowhand" (providing the melodic counterpoint on the latter to Madison's "horse's hooves" before Allen saddles up for an easy-going canter).

The octet, driven by Madison, lights a spark under "Jeepers Creepers," and Allen and Temperley eagerly fan the flames, chasing each other through five blistering choruses before Madison and the ensemble wrap things up. Allen is front and center on "You'll Never Know," Temperley on "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (played as a sensuous tango), and they trade salvos again (with Gilkes) on "I Had the Craziest Dream" and "I Only Have Eyes for You." Hong switches to flute, Pareschi to Harmon mute on "I Found a Million Dollar Baby." The finale, "The Gold Diggers' Song" (a.k.a. "We're in the Money") is a lively springboard for bracing solos by Allen, Pareschi, Hong (alto), Ayala and Madison.

I Had the Craziest Dream embodies wonderful music by Harry Warren, deftly arranged by Berger and superbly performed by eight talented sidemen. Recommended? Without pause.

Tracks: Jeepers Creepers; You'll Never Know; September in the Rain; On the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe; Summer Night; I Had The Craziest Dream; Boulevard of Broken Dreams; I Found A Million-Dollar Baby (In A Five- and-Ten Cent Store); Serenade in Blue; I Only Have Eyes For You; I'm An Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande); The Gold Diggers' Song.

Personnel: David Berger: arranger, conductor; Brian "Fletch" Pareschi: trumpet; Marshall Gilkes: trombone; Matt Hong: alto sax; Harry Allen: tenor sax; Joe Temperley: baritone sax; Isaac ben Ayala: piano; Yasushi Nakamura: bass; Jimmy Madison: drums.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Such Sweet Thunder | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream

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