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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 such as Porgy & Bess? It's always stood as an emotional source of pride for the jazz world.
Masters honors the composer and those who have worked wonders with the opera throughout the Twentieth Century by setting the stage for his soloists and turning them loose. Tim Hagans and Billy Harper in particular step up to the bar and release their personal feelings on the music without distraction. The orchestra supports them confidently and adds cohesive interplay. The music has been arranged to suit George Gershwin's original plans.
History parades before your eyes and ears as Masters' powerful ensemble recalls timeless themes such as "It Ain't Necessarily So," "A Woman is a Sometime Thing," and "Summertime" with originality and allegiance.
Don Shelton's warm alto flute and Gary Smulyan's mellow baritone saxophone croon casually on "I Loves You, Porgy" with hearts laid bare. A big band sound dominates "It Ain't Necessarily So" with shrieking power. Hagans and Harper give "Clara, Clara" a moody echo, while "A Red Headed Woman" swings nonchalantly as if Henry Mancini had dreamed her up for a contemporary detective story. The project ends with a stirring arrangement of "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York," and everyone hops aboard for a powerful send-off.
Highly recommended, Mark Masters' latest project honors this timeless jazz opera and its composer through musical excellence and a strikingly creative spirit.
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 Honey Man; I Loves You, Porgy; A Red Headed Woman; Clara, Clara; There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York.
Personnel: Mark Masters- conductor; Billy Harper- tenor saxophone; Tim Hagans- trumpet; Gary Smulyan- baritone saxophone; Dave Woodley- trombone; Cecilia Coleman- piano; Ray Drummond- bass; Joe La Barbera- drums; Don Shelton- alto flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; John Riley- bassoon, tenor saxophone; Stephanie O'Keefe- French horn; Bob Carr, Greg Huckins- bass clarinet; Tom Delibero, Louis Fasman, Les Lovitt- trumpet; Les Benedict- trombone; Bill Roper- tuba.
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.