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Clark Terry w/ the Chicago Jazz Orchestra: Porgy & Bess

Comparisons are odious, but the highly respected conductor of the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Jeff Lindberg, has opened that can of worms regarding his latest project, Porgy & Bess (A440), which features flugelhornist Clark Terry. First, it must be pointed out that Terry’s recording sessions began in November 2003 and ended in December after he turned 84. He has lost none of his vibrancy or warmth or humor, and while perhaps there’s a tad less fluidity in his playing, Terry’s skills are ideal for the dramatic impact called for by this opera. He even mumbled his way through a brief “Here Come De Honey Man.”

Now here’s the rub. For reasons unknown, Lindberg decided to use 12 of Gil Evans’ original arrangements from the 1958 sessions he did with Miles Davis. Lindberg employs larger forces than Evans did, with 24 pieces, and thanks to Daniel Anderson’s tuba the bottom sound is more prominent. But regarding what’s up front, Lindberg is paraphrased in the liner notes as saying, “Terry better expresses the full range of human emotion found in the work.” Then he is quoted directly: “As great as Miles was, he tended to be set in mood from one Porgy and Bess selection to another…. Clark, on the other hand, is very successful at expressing the changing moods of the opera.” Uh, no, Herr Director, Clark is not better than; he’s different. Period.

Originally Published