This is the second outstanding treatment of Gershwin's famed folk opera, Porgy & Bess, within the past eight months. On the other recent version, Jeff Lindberg's Chicago Jazz Orchestra faithfully delivered the 1959 Gil Evans-Miles Davis arrangement with Clark Terry providing superlative trumpet interpretation. Mark Masters, who has spent the past few seasons artfully interpreting the compositions and arrangements of Jimmy Knepper, Clifford Brown, Lee Konitz, and most recently trombonist Grachan Moncur, now turns his attention to Porgy & Bess. The Mark Masters Ensemble uses many of the same versatile West Coast jazzmen as in the past with some additions.
As with his previous projects, this in not a showcase for individual players, although there is ample time for all principals to provide sparking solo work. Masters has provided a rich foundation to display these well-known compositions. The Lindberg/Chicago Jazz Orchestra team beautifully updated the Gil Evans arrangement in today's sonic environment, leaving Clark Terry's masterful trumpet work to shine; Masters has taken the 1959 classic one step further by adding additional colorations which allow for rich orchestral work as well as smaller ensemble swing.
The most prominent solo opportunities are given to tenor saxophonist Billy Harper and trumpeter Tim Hagans. Harper plays in largely a mainstream setting, with some use of free jazz, and Hagan's pure tone is heard throughout the album. Harper's solo on "A Woman Is A Sometime Thing" is a work of beauty. Pianist Cecilia Coleman also excels on that selection. Gary Smulyan's baritone sax work on "I Loves You Porgy" is outstanding. Additional solo work from flutist Don Shelton and trombonist Dave Woodley is also well presented.
There is also a series of brief free jazz appearances on this project. The album opens with a brief burst of outer sounds, which also appear during the course of "Gone Gone Gone," where the tone poem quality morphs into bursts of outside jazz from Harper and Hagans. However, this is indeed a very small price to pay for the finished product.
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 Da Honey Man; 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), Cecilia Coleman (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Joe La Barbera (drums), Don Shelton (alto flute, soprano and tenor saxophones), John Riley (bassoon, tenor saxophone), Stephanie O