This splendid debut recording by the Nashville Jazz Orchestra is subtitled "New Twists on Gershwin Classics." No argument there, starting with the picturesque "Cuban Overture" from 1932 and encompassing a trio of songs from the folk opera Porgy and Bess, which premiered three years later. Also on the bill of fare are the standards "But Not for Me," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "How Long Has This Been Going On" and the ambitious "Prelude No. 2," deftly arranged by Jamie Simmons as a showpiece for the impressive clarinetist Don Aliquo.
Trombonist Barry Greene is captivating on "But Not for Me," tenor saxophonist Doug Moffet likewise on Bernie Walker's well-grooved arrangement of "Summertime." Moffet solos again on "My Man's Gone Now," the first of three vocals by Christina Watson whose bluesy phrases conclusively epitomize the Gershwin ethos. Watson's other features are "Someone to Watch Over Me" and the album's closing number, "How Long Has This Been Going On." Trombonist Roy Agee, trumpeter / music director Jim Williamson and pianist Steve Kummer are the soloists on "Cuban Overture," Kummer, trumpeters Williamson and Matt White on "It Ain't Necessarily So," tenor Kenny Anderson on "Someone to Watch Over Me," alto Cole Burgess on "How Long Has This Been Going On."
For reasons unknown, the other band members aren't named, a regrettable oversight, as engaging as the soloists are it is the ensemble as a whole that clearly enriches the narrative and earns the blue ribbon. Not to mention the arrangersSimmons, Walker, Williamson (It Ain't Necessarily So"), Ryan Middagh ("Cuban Overture"), Ted Wilson ("My Man's Gone Now"), Oscar Utterstrom ("Someone to Watch Over Me") and Bruce Dudley ("How Long Has This Been Going On"), each of whom adds a personal "new twist" to Gershwin's time-honored music.
Any orchestra that plans to remodel music as well-known as this should weigh that decision carefully to make sure it has something fresh and engaging to impart. The Nashville Jazz Orchestra does.
Cuban Overture; But Not for Me; My Man’s Gone Now; Prelude No. 2; It Ain’t Necessarily So; Someone to Watch Over Me; Summertime; How Long Has This Been Going On.
Jim Williamson: music director, trumpet, flugelhorn; Matt White: trumpet; Cole Burgess: alto sax; Kenny Anderson: tenor sax; Doug Moffet: tenor sax; Don Aliquo: clarinet; Barry Green: trombone; Roy Agee: trombone; Steve Kummer: piano; Christina Watson: vocals. Other personnel unlisted.
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