|George Gershwin is one of the most recorded composers in American popular music. His 70 year-old folk opera Porgy And Bess probably leads the list with such tunes as Summertime, I Loves You Porgy, It Ain’t Necessarily So and A Woman Is A Sometime Thing.
Many jazz artists recorded Porgy & Bess; among them Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson and the Modern Jazz Quartet . There were dozens of others, but, in this writer’s humble opinion, there still isn’t a definitive jazz recording of the classic Broadway hit. Here’s a new performance that you, the record-buying audience, will pass judgment upon. Porgy & Bess Redefined is arranged and conducted by Mark Masters of the American Jazz Institute. This CD is very easy to love. While the notes lead one to believe that the stars are reedman Billy Harper and trumpeter Tim Hagans, there are any number of fine players on this project. Baritone player Gary Smulyan and trombonist Dave Woodley are outstanding throughout the disc. The rhythm section is flawless and Cecelia Coleman, Ray Drummond and Joe La Barbera provide a strong backbone to the swinging band.
Certainly, the highlighted soloists, Hagans and Harper live up to their billing. The tenor-man and trumpeter solo on every track with the exception of Here Come De Honey Man where Don Shelton and Dave Woodley do the honors. Tim Hagans and Billy Harper really show their stuff on Summertime, It Ain’t Necessarily So, My Man’s Gone Now and A Woman Is A Sometime Thing. The latter also features some nice piano by Cecelia Coleman. This reviewer had a number of favorites but the top spot goes to There’s A Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon For New York.
Mark Masters can be proud of this project. The sound is fresh, modern and memorable. It’s fine jazz!