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Mark Masters Ensemble: Porgy and Bess Redefined!

Dan McClenaghan By

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Mark Masters Ensemble: Porgy and Bess Redefined! 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 couple of years, been responsible for some vibrantly succuessful sets that have showcased past, long-established, or relatively obscure jazz artists, with The Clifford Brown Project, One Day With Lee (Lee Konitz); and Grachan Moncur III's Exploration respectively. With Porgy and Bess Redefined! he, along with some adventurous soloists, stretches the framework of Gershwin's masterpiece around while maintaining the familiar melodic structure.

Tenor saxophonist Billy Harper and trumpeter Tim Hagans are the guys out front for the most part, but trombonist Dave Woodley and baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan get their turns too, as does pianist Cecelia Coleman.

The tunes will be familiar to most jazz fans. There's "Summertime," of course, with Masters' "in and out" approach working, brash then subdued and understated, with a prickly, stinging solo by Harper. "Gone, Gone, Gone" opens with a cool harmony that leads into an interlude of cacophonous wailing before the sound reassembles into melodic familiarity, then breaks apart again—wild splashes of color fading to soft pastel washes.

"Red Headed Woman," swinging, bluesy, features a bunch of great solo slots and some lively interplay, with Cecelia Coleman's comping behind Dave Woodley's slightly sour-toned trombone sounding like magic.

An adventurous redefinition of a masterwork.


Track Listing: Introduction, Summertime, A Woman is a Sometime Thing, Gone, Gone, Gone, My Man's Gone Now, It ain't Necessarily So, Here Come De Honeyman, I loves You Porgy, A Red Headed Woman, Clara, Clara, There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York

Personnel: Billy Harper--tenor saxophone; Tim Hagans--trumpet; Gary Smulyan--baritone saxophone; Dave Woodley--trombone; Cecelia Coleman--oiano; Ray Drummond--bass; Joe La Barabera--drums; Don Shelton--alto flute, tenor and soprano saxophones; John Riley--bassoon, tenor saxophone; Stephanie O'Keefe--French horn; Bob Carr--bass clarinet; Greg Huckins--bass clarinet; Tom Delibero--trumpet; Louis Fasaman--trumpet; Les Lovitt--trumpet; Les Benedict--trombone; Bill roper--tuba

Year Released: 2005 | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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