GRP - GRD 2005
That Certain Feeling (1:12)
Fascinating Rhythm (5:01)
Prelude ii (5:39)
How Long Has This Been Going On (5:13)
There's A Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon For New York (5:40)
My Man's Gone Now (6:52)
Our Love Is Here To Stay (3:14)
'S Wonderful (3:47)
I've Got Plenty Of Nothin' (6:06)
Nice Work If You Can Get It (3:30)
Medley: Bess You Is My Woman/I Loves You Porgy (5:48)
Lee Ritenour (guitar), Chick Corea (piano), Eddie Daniels (clarinet), Gary Burton (vibraphone), Eric Marienthal (alto & soprano saxophone), Sal Marquez (trumpet), John Patitucci (bass), Sonny Emory (drums), Dave Weckl (drums), Don Grusin (clavinet)
Arranged by Dave Grusin
Produced by Dave Grusin & Larry Rosen
It is difficult to resist singling out this eclectic tribute to the music of George Gershwin as Dave Grusin's finest album. Most likely, it is exactly that.
Of course, the Gershwin speaks for itself. If you're one of those who feels a perpetual sense of loss over the brief life of this great composer, then any well-done exposition of his music will be a treat.
In fact, it would appear that Dave Grusin himself would also regard this record as something pretty special, saying in 1992 “Probably the most fun I've had making a record as an artist was The Gershwin Connection.”
There is indeed something extraordinary going on here. Not just the classic melodies nor the usual Dave Grusin assemblage of top musicians performing with the ability you'd expect; not just the enjoyment they are obviously experiencing giving full vent to his inspired arrangements. It is the combination of all these elements - each thrill bouncing off another to create and even greater one.
After two decades concentrating heavily on electronically oriented music, Dave Grusin returns to his own roots and those of jazz as well. Every song is a finely cut and flawless gem. Space permitting, an entire page devoted to each would be in order.
Overture to the tracks by Dave Grusin and friends is a `virtual' George Gershwin performance of “That Certain Feeling” - not coming from a record, but made from a live piano playing a roll cut by the composer himself.
The album per se opens with the optimistic ballad “Soon,” featuring a smooth coupling with Eddie Daniels' clarinet, and Dave Grusin revealing a new style at the piano, seemingly more easy, relaxed and melodious than ever. A very romantic sound.
If there was any doubt that all this was what some fans had been waiting a quarter century for, the third track, “Fascinating Rhythm,” provides the delightful confirmation, as his piano is joined by Gary Burton on vibes in a captivating performance with the emphasis definitely on rhythm. The animated conversation amongst the instruments offers one of the best renditions of a piece which has enticed many a talent to interpret it.
Next up is one of the great tour de force numbers on "The Gershwin Connection," the "Prelude II" in C sharp minor. From the first notes of the string section playing rhythm, persuasively answered by Lee Ritenour's guitar, “The Prelude” is simply a musical main event.
Eddie Daniels' clarinet wanders in and out of the piece, capturing a dozen moods - each a different facet of the composer. By the time he calls on the "Rhapsody in Blue," the spirit of all that is George Gershwin has been evoked.
The feel Dave Grusin was aiming for was of a New Orleans street band, but what he has achieved has stretched well beyond - a blend of hypnotism, jazz and rhythm.
As a footnote … Everyone in the group is shining stunningly on the "Prelude," like the best jazz, being a party piece for each musician, but all the while an ensemble performance. And where is Dave Grusin in the middle of all this? Only if you listen very, very carefully, will you hear his modest piano.
Should you be one of those who regard “How Long Has This Been Going On” as the sultry side of Gershwin, you will not be prepared for Dave Grusin's treatment on this album. This is all about rhythm. “How Long …” a vehicle for rhythm? The only saving grace for romantics on this track is the string section, but they are in scant evidence.
However, this is not something to make a snap decision about. If you love this song, its purity will come out around the tenth listening, and because it might be at the top of your list of Gershwin, you will be glad he has included it, no matter what he has done to it. And rest assured, it will grow on you.
A number of songs from Porgy and Bess are featured on “The Gershwin Connection,” the first being “There's A Boat Dat`s Leavin` Soon For New York.” As one would expect, this piece swings thoroughly, with Eddie Daniels blowing clear and true. If you were looking for a single track to represent the ethos of “The Gershwin Connection,” this would do nicely. And Dave Grusin's performance will leave you speechless, trying to account for the years he spent away from the acoustic piano.
Each of the Porgy and Bess selections are given a completely unique treatment. Perhaps it is no surprise to find the great work dominating this recording. Dave Grusin regards the vibrant American opera as the ideal framework for jazz expression, and even traces one of his earliest memories directly to it - the striking sheet music to "Summertime," which stood on his mother's piano when he was probably little older than two years of age.
“My Man's Gone” is the second item from Porgy and Bess. It is an exceptional exposition of jazzy blues and ensemble playing, and is given cohesiveness by Dave Grusin's rhythmic piano. Of special credit to the arranger is the way he manages to add strings to Sal Marquez' blistering trumpet, and have it sound like the most natural mix possible.
Gary Burton brings down the temperature to ultimate cool on the gentle ballad, “Maybe,” with the Grusin piano again giving off this floaty sound which would be heard again sparingly through the decade (notably on “One Hand, One Heart” from his West Side Story album in 1997). The track is romance with a capital R.
One of the few songs Dave Grusin has recorded more than once, “Our Love is Here To Stay,” follows. Again, the emphasis of the piano is on rhythm, but this is not quite the savage treatment inflicted on “How Long Has This Been Going On,” and is just getting into its stride, when it ends all too soon.
Chick Corea and Don Grusin join in on “'S Wonderful,” and the whole effect is so charming, so full of verve and fun, the three pianists simply sweep you away on a cloud of happiness. This is bottled essence of pure Gershwin.
The funky “I've Got Plenty Of Nothin'” is so spirited, you will be unable to listen to it without moving - and quite a lot at that. Becoming progressively more and more frantic, wilder and wilder as it moves along, the track displays what great jazz is, and the lengths it can be taken given a brilliant melody to start with. When a point of virtual madness seems to have been reached, that characteristic touch of Grusin irony returns to say it was all in fun, and a somewhat tamer, but no less innovative session takes us to the end of the piece (just when you believe you could really learn to dote on this kind of music). In any case, the energy in this performance could light a small city for a month.
As he has put liveliness into “How Long as This Been Going On,” Dave Grusin takes the usually snappy "Nice Work If You Can Get It" (think of Frank Sinatra Singing it), and turns it into the ultimate Dave Grusin think piece.
The aforementioned Mr. Sinatra often spoke of having respect for a lyric. That would have appeared to be a singer's province, until you hear Dave Grusin doing “Nice work.” The way he brings out Ira Gershwin's wistful lyrics in an instrumental version of the song is just one more layer to the treasures of this arrangement and performance.
Beginning with a prologue which might make you feel "An American in Paris," the track exudes not just a sense of loss, but never having had. Musing, philosophical, daydreaming, hopeful, resigned . Rolling like a gentle river through a sequence of chord changes whose structure is enhanced by the soft touch on the keyboard, the piece ends with an epilogue of more variations on a theme.
After you have recovered from the spell, you would like him to do to every standard in the book, what he does with this song - to bring out so much one could never know was there, not just arranging, but blending musical elements as in the creation of a most subtle perfume.
It is an impossible act to follow, and it takes something completely different to close the album. Different, but not a change in tone.
Playing with the London Symphony Orchestra, Dave Grusin intermingles two more songs from “Porgy and Bess,” “I Loves You Porgy” and “Bess, You Is My Woman Now.” (The poignant arrangement earned him a Grammy in 1992.)
Lush and profound, it is the only possible thing which could follow “Nice Work” and get away with it. There is something so soulful here, not just the tender string arrangement, but a depth of feeling in the performance which is almost uncanny.
If pianist Dave Grusin were to lay something down, and say, this is what I did, he could want no more than this closing salute to the Gershwin opera.
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