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Randy Sandke: The Music of Bob Haggart: Under the Direction of Randy Sandke

Most jazz fans are well acquainted with some arrangement or another of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, but few of them are acquainted with Bob Haggart’s charts of the score. The reason is simple: Haggart’s arrangements, released at the same time as the Porgy and Bess movie, were pushed to the back of the record racks by versions of the same music by (among others) Miles Davis and Gil Evans, the Modern Jazz Quartet, the Oscar Peterson Trio and Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Modern-day trumpeter Randy Sandke has decided that this was an unfair quirk of history, and after some detective work and painstaking transcription he’s reassembled Haggart’s Porgy and Bess plus some other charts under the prosaic title The Music of Bob Haggart.

Haggart’s charts for Gershwin don’t try to reinvent the wheel as other interpreters at the time did; their sound, straightahead, tart and tight, takes the listener back to Gershwin’s own idiom with minimum fuss and maximum verve. Frequent solo breaks allow the stellar band Sandke has assembled to shine; while everyone puts their best foot forward in this endeavor, the two most impressive players are Jon-Erik Kellso on the (frequently muted) puje, sounding period without sounding old, and Sandke himself, alternately caressing and goosing some of the most famous melodies ever written.

Jazz fans shouldn’t lose sleep over having favored Miles, Oscar or Louis and Ella for so many years; Haggart’s version isn’t that compelling. But, as this recording proves, it can be a lot of fun in the right hands.

Originally Published