159

David Berger and the Sultans of Swing: Marlowe

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
David Berger and the Sultans of Swing: Marlowe David Berger, an avowed admirer of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, writes, as Ellington and Strayhorn often did, music with a purpose, evocative themes that paint graphic sound pictures designed to summon a visceral response from his audience. And so it is with Berger's latest album, Marlowe, which consists of two suites—"Windows on the World," solemnizing the World Trade Center disaster of September 11, 2001, and its aftermath; and "Marlowe," consuming more than 38 of the album's nearly 62 minutes while probing the dark, mysterious and often violent world of Raymond Chandler's hard-bitten fictional private eye, Philip Marlowe.

Whatever his motive, Berger's picturesque compositions are consistently Ellingtonian in spirit and scope, deriving their emotional power from his expert use of color, tempo and dynamics. As Dan Morgenstern accurately observes in his cogent liner essay, "There is a marvelous variety of moods and textures here, and not a note that doesn't contribute to the whole." Marlowe was originally conceived as a dance piece, and one can readily apprehend the balletic elements throughout, as Berger's resilient Sultans of Swing scrupulously weave their way through the tough-as-nails gumshoe's gritty underworld of lawlessness and immorality.

What Morgenstern doesn't point out is that almost every movement of "Marlowe"—there are a dozen in all, divided into two roughly equal parts—ends in mid-note, which can be somewhat unnerving when one is absorbed by the narrative and not anticipating such an abrupt pause. It's less disconcerting the second time around. The Sultans, formed by Berger in 1996, do their level best to enhance his music, working smoothly as an ensemble and unveiling a number of resourceful soloists, including saxophonists Jerry Dodgion and Mark Hynes, trumpeters Steven Bernstein and Brian Pareschi, trombonist Pat Hallaran, clarinetist Dan Block, bass clarinetist Jay Brandford and pianist Isaac ben Ayala, who rounds out an impressive rhythm section with bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Jimmy Madison. There is one vocal, by Aria Hendricks on "Heroes," the fourth movement of "Windows on the World."

Berger composes music that communicates effectively on a number of levels, and Marlowe is a sturdy vehicle for his remarkable talents. It's not your garden-variety big band session, but those whose minds are fully engaged will find an abundance of entrancing music therein to absorb and appreciate.


Track Listing: Windows on the World -- Windows on the World; Jihad: The Price of Oil; Wanted DOA: Osama, Yo Mama; Heroes; Prayer for Peace. Marlowe, Part 1 -- The Bait; On the Scent; Too Much Information; Stakeout in the Rain; El Barrio; Back on the Scent. Marlowe, Part 2 -- Where Am I?; Molasses in January; I Got It; Central Avenue Processional; I Ain't Got It; The Big Push (61:52).

Personnel: David Berger, composer, arranger, conductor; Jerry Dodgion, Matt Hong, Dan Block, Mark Hynes, Jay Brandford, reeds; Bob Millikan, Brian Pareschi, Irv Grossman, Steven Bernstein, trumpet; Ryan Keberle, Pat Hallaran, Marshall Gilkes, trombone; George Flynn ("Marlowe" only), bass trombone; Doug Wamble ("Marlowe" suite only), guitar; Isaac ben Ayala, piano; Dennis Irwin, bass; Jimmy Madison, drums; Aria Hendricks, vocal (on "Heroes").

Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Such Sweet Thunder | Style: Big Band


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Chasing Pixies" CD/LP/Track Review Chasing Pixies
by Eyal Hareuveni
Published: May 30, 2016
Read "Friday Night in San Francisco" CD/LP/Track Review Friday Night in San Francisco
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: September 4, 2016
Read "Fourtune" CD/LP/Track Review Fourtune
by Duncan Heining
Published: November 28, 2016
Read "Cómo Desaparecer Completamente (How to Disappear Completely)" CD/LP/Track Review Cómo Desaparecer Completamente (How to Disappear Completely)
by Troy Dostert
Published: November 11, 2016
Read "Book II" CD/LP/Track Review Book II
by John Sharpe
Published: March 27, 2016
Read "What Do I Miss" CD/LP/Track Review What Do I Miss
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 10, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!