Experience and imagination are brothers-in-arms when it comes to Clark Terry and his insight into the remaking of the Gil Evans charts for Porgy and Bess. The Miles Davis recording could well have been the definitive work, but now Terry and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra breathe in some fresh air and bring in another phase to the much-hallowed music. Terry still has his chops and the ability to inject passion; age certainly has not withered those strengths. He reads with nimble ease and he has not lost his delightful sense of fun. With all those attributes intact, this venture into a classic spells success.
Terry brings his particular spirit to the compositions. "Summertime" has him use the mute, but he swings with a lively undercurrent, yet sharp-edged and soaring. The tone is broad and lush on "Bess, Oh Where's My Bess?", the flugelhorn floating and clasping the emotional crux. Terry essays it smoothly into swing before coming back again in a seamless arc. The blues are deep and beckoningwould he have it any other way? "Prayer (Oh Doctor Jesus)" testifies to his tensility and his passion. And what would a Terry recording be without a vocal? He does "Here Comes de Honey Man" with a mumble and humour. Is anything else needed? Acknowledgement would not be complete without a nod to "I Loves You, Porgy" which is beautifully delineated, his voice a beacon of luminous sentiment.
The recording also gains sinew from the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, which not only lends Terry admirable support but also envisions the music with an attitude that is compelling. As such the supporting players create an aura that is definitive, playing with verve or with delicacy, expertise of high standard. "Gone" is one of the compositions that fine tunes these aspects. The orchestration is rich and George Fludas pushes the rhythm on the drums, with Art Hoyle adding an exemplary solo before getting into an animate conversation with Terry.
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
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)