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Clark Terry and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra: Porgy & Bess

Dan McClenaghan By

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Can a remake of a classic album also be considered a classic? It's hard to say. George Gershwin's Porgy & Bess, as done by Miles Davis on flugelhorn in front of Gil Evans' fabulous lighter-than-air arrangements—this was back in 1958—certainly qualifies as a major work of art, quite innovative at the time. The venerable trumpeter/flugelhornist Clark Terry, taking Davis's part in front of the Chicago Jazz Orchestra's reverent reproduction of the Evans charts, makes for a close match to the original. Compared to the '58 recording, the orchestra is beefed up a bit, most notably with a four man clarinet section that adds a subtle new richness to the harmonies; but it's Terry's soloing—extraordinary in its vibrancy and creativity—that makes this set rise to true excellence.

Clark Terry's career has spanned six decades, from work in the forties with the Basie Band to an eight-year stint with the Ellington Orchestra in the fifties and on into a prolific solo career. He has been, over the years, an influence on many trumpet players, including Miles Davis himself.

A large part of the fascination in Terry's soloing here comes from the emotional range he gets from his horn. On the original album, Miles Davis was dark-toned, brooding for the most part. Terry's sound on the remake has more uplift, ranging into brighter hues, often with a sense of wonder and discovery. For many of us, Miles' solos on Porgy & Bess (some of the finest of his career) are hard-wired into our brains now; these new takes by Terry add a new dimension with a very different personality to them.

There are probably naysayers who won't like to hear a masterpiece messed with—Gerry Mulligan's very fine Re-Birth of the Cool (GRP, '92) took a lot of critical sniping—but Clark Terry's take on Porgy & Bess stands as a masterful revisitation of a classic sound.

Track Listing: Buzzard Song; Bess, You is My Woman Now; Gone; Gone, Gone, Gone; Summertime; Bess, Oh Where's My Bess; Prayer (Oh, Doctor Jesus); Fishermen, Strawberry and Devil's Crab; My Man's Gone Now; It Ain't Necessarily So; Here Come De Honey Man; I Loves You, Porgy; There's a Boat That's Leaving Soon for New York

Personnel: Clark Terry (solo trumpet, flugelhorn, vocal on "Here Come De Honey Man")
With the Chicago Jazz Orchestra: Jeff Lindberg (artistic director and conductor), John Wojciechowski (alto saxophone), Darlene Drew (alto flute, piccolo), Jerry DiMuzio (alto flute, bass clarinet), Kimberly Risinger (bass flute, flute), Larry Combs (b-flat clarinet, bass clarinet), William Overton (bass clarinet), Randy Salman (b-flat clarinet, bass clarinet), Greg Flint (French horn), Neil Kimel (French horn), Angela DeBoer (French horn), Christine Worthing (French horn replacing Neil Kimel on "Buzzard Song," "Summertime"), Danny Barber (trumpet), Kirk Garrison (trumpet, replaces Danny Barber on lead trumpet on "Buzzard Song"), Doug Scharf (trumpet), Art Davis (trumpet), Art Hoyle (trumpet), Brent Turney (trumpet, replaces Danny Barber on lead trumpet on "Summertime"), Scott Bentall (trombone), Tim Coffman (trombone), Andrew Baker (trombone), Michael Young (bass trombone), Daniel Anderson (tuba), Dennis Carroll (bass), Rob Kassinger (bass, replacing Dennis Carroll on "Prayer (Oh Doctor Jesus)"), George Fludas (drums)

Title: Porgy & Bess | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: A440 Music

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