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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 arrangementsthis was back in 1958certainly 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 soloingextraordinary in its vibrancy and creativitythat 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 withGerry Mulligan's very fine Re-Birth of the Cool (GRP, '92) took a lot of critical snipingbut Clark Terry's take on Porgy & Bess stands as a masterful revisitation of a classic sound.
Track Listing: Buzzard's Song, Bess, You is My Woman Now, Gone, Gone Gone Gone, Summertime, Bess, Oh Where's My Bess? Prayer (Oh, Doctor Jesus) Fisherman, Strawberry and Devil 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--trumpet and flugelhorn; with the Chcago Jazz Orchestra, Jeff Lindberg--Artistic Director and Conductor
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.