So many songs from George Gershwin's folk opera Porgy & Bess have become standards that jazz fans likely take them for granted. But Mark Masters' large ensemble arrangements of selections from this work are anything but typical. "Summertime" showcases virtuoso solos connected by often wild interludes in a post-bop setting frequently marked by changes in tempo. "A Woman Is a Sometime Thing" suggests a throwback to the era of Duke Ellington and Count Basie, but with a modern flavor. Tenor saxophonist Billy Harper and Tim Hagans (on muted trumpet) shine in "Gone, Gone, Gone," in a chart which alternates between a mournful air with lush backgrounds and an avant-garde fury. "It Ain't Necessarily So" has a swaggering flavor with almost vocal-like solos. Also groundbreaking is the leader's inventive scoring of "I Loves You, Porgy," featuring baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan, Don Shelton on alto flute, along with Hagans and Harper. This CD should be considered one of the landmark interpretations of Porgy & Bess to come along since Gil Evans' famous recording with Miles Davis decades earlier.
Porgy and Bess: Redefined Review
by Ken Dryden