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Album Review

The Mark Masters Ensemble: Night Talk: The Alec Wilder Songbook

Read "Night Talk: The Alec Wilder Songbook" reviewed by Pierre Giroux


Alec Wilder was born in 1907 and died in 1980, and might well have been described as an eccentric renaissance man. He composed opera, musicals, film music, popular songs, and chamber music, along with publishing in 1975 one of the most read books on popular music: American Popular Song: the Great Innovators 1900-1950. The Mark Masters Ensemble is a tight knit and imaginative Octet which can stake their claim on mining the gold contained in Alec Wilder's popular ...

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Album Review

The Mark Masters Ensemble: Night Talk: The Alec Wilder Songbook

Read "Night Talk: The Alec Wilder Songbook" reviewed by Jack Bowers


Night Talk, the eighth album by celebrated arranger Mark Masters' superb West Coast-based ensemble, is subtitled “The Alec Wilder Songbook Featuring Gary Smulyan." Indeed, Smulyan's is an impressive solo voice (but hardly the only one) in an eloquent songbook that appraises eight of Wilder's tasteful compositions, including a pair of his best-known melodies, “Moon and Sand" and “I'll Be Around." As Masters arranged every number for his hand-picked octet, nothing more need be said about that save ...

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Album Review

Mark Masters Ensemble: Our Metier

Read "Our Metier" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan


Mark Masters, an extraordinarily talented and perhaps undersung arranger of large ensembles jazz, has spent a good deal of artistic energy on crafting recordings that explore other people's compositions. His Capri Records output includes The Clifford Brown Project (2003), celebrating the sounds of the too-soon-gone trumpet legend; Porgy and Bess (2005), from the George Gershwin songbook; One Day With Lee (2004), a celebration of alto saxophonist Lee Konitz; Farewell Walter Dewey Redman (2008), a nod to another great sax man; ...

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Album Review

Mark Masters Ensemble: Porgy & Bess Redefined!

Read "Porgy & Bess Redefined!" reviewed by Jim Santella


Mark Masters is conductor and president of the American Jazz Institute in Pasadena, California. His projects honor the history of jazz while putting his personal stamp on each arrangement. Porgy & Bess Redefined! emerges fresh and alive, as Masters has seen fit to arrange the time-tested music for jazz orchestra with its themes cemented between soloists. Emotions rage and heartfelt empathy sidles up to center stage as the story unfolds.

How do you improve a piece of art ...

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Album Review

Mark Masters Ensemble: Porgy & Bess Redefined!

Read "Porgy & Bess Redefined!" reviewed by Michael P. Gladstone


This is the second outstanding treatment of Gershwin's famed folk opera, Porgy & Bess, within the past eight months. On the other recent version, Jeff Lindberg's Chicago Jazz Orchestra faithfully delivered the 1959 Gil Evans-Miles Davis arrangement with Clark Terry providing superlative trumpet interpretation. Mark Masters, who has spent the past few seasons artfully interpreting the compositions and arrangements of Jimmy Knepper, Clifford Brown, Lee Konitz, and most recently trombonist Grachan Moncur, now turns his attention to Porgy & Bess. ...

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Album Review

Mark Masters Ensemble: Porgy and Bess Redefined!

Read "Porgy and Bess Redefined!" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan


Gershwin's folk opera Porgy and Bess has been performed by numerous jazz artists, including Oscar Peterson, Joe Henderson, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Most famously, it was visited by Miles Davis in collaboration with Gil Evans in 1959; and most recently revisited by Clark Terry and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, with Terry putting his personal solo stamp on some reverent Evans charts.

Arranger/conductor Mark Masters of the American Jazz Institute has, for the past ...

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Album Review

Mark Masters Ensemble: Porgy & Bess Redefined!

Read "Porgy & Bess Redefined!" reviewed by John Kelman


More than any complete score of the 20th Century, Gershwin's Porgy and Bess has to be the one most covered by jazz artists. A short list of significant players who have tackled the cycle includes Hank Jones, Oscar Peterson, Ray Charles and Cleo Laine, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, and Joe Henderson. Arguably the most definitive arrangement of Gershwin's score is the one Gil Evans created for Miles Davis in the '50s.

So vivid was Evans' score, in fact, that ...


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