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With a full orchestra backing smaller intimate jazz ensembles, various artists appearing under the umbrella title The Crown Project have gathered to pay tribute to George Gershwin’s music. Leading players are pianist Mark Gasbarro, flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny, saxophonists Doug Norwine & Justo Almario, and singers Sandi Patty & Tim Davis. Gasbarro performs "Nice Work if You Can Get It" with bass and drums in an atmosphere that seems to place the listener in a club at center stage absorbing every nuance. Later, the pianist works alone with bassist Dave Stone to deliver "Somebody Loves Me" in swinging fashion.
Matheny lends his ballad support to "But Not For Me," "Someone To Watch Over Me" and "The Man I Love." The flugelhornist turns his phrases over lightly and fluidly; making sure the audience can appreciate every note. Vibraphonist Brian Atkinson and guitarist Carl Verheyen team up with a rhythm section on "Our Love is Here to Stay" and waltz gently around the dance floor. Sandi Patty adds the lesser-known waltz "By Strauss" with flute and full orchestra accompaniment; the lyrics are amusing and memorable. Fortunately, the liner notes are quite informative with respect to the life of George Gershwin and each of the songs represented. "Fascinating Rhythm" swings out with alternating meters of 5/4 and 4/4. Justo Almario overdubs several flute lines and teams with Gasbarro’s piano to provide a melody, but the fascinating part of the piece is their challenging take on alternating meters.
Monarch Records organized The Crown Project with the centennial of jazz’s history in mind. This, their debut recording, marks Gershwin’s 100th birthday, which fell on September 26, 1998. Plans for similar centennial tributes are being made to mark the birth anniversaries of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie in the next several years. It just keeps getting better. As we enter the next millennium, there are hundreds of jazz centennials to dot our calendars, and hopefully they’ll all be remembered with due respect.
Track Listing: The Man I Love; They Can
Personnel: Mark Gasbarro- piano, keyboards; Dave Stone, Dave Marotta, Tom Warrington- bass; John Ferraro- drums; Dmitri Matheny- flugelhorn; Justo Almario, Doug Norwine- tenor saxophone, flute; Dan Higgins- clarinet; Carl Verheyen- guitar; Brian Atkinson- vibes; Greg Mathieson- Hammond B-3; Richie Gajate-Garcia- percussion; Sandi Patty, Tim Davis, Melody Tunney, Bonnie King- vocals; Carl Gorodetsky- concertmaster.