THE JET SONG
I FEEL PRETTY
ONE HAND, ONE HEART
Michael Brecker (tenor sax), Jonathan Butler (vocals), Ronnie Cuber (baritone sax, bass clarinet, clarinet), Gloria Estefan (vocals), Bill Evans (tenor & soprano sax), John Patitucci (acoustic bass), Lee Ritenour (guitar), Arturo Sandoval (trumpet, flugelhorn), Jon Secada (vocals), Dave Valentin (flute), Dave Weckl (drums), George Young (piccolo)
(see below for additional musicians)
Arrangements by: Dave Grusin, Don Sebesky, Michael Abene, Tom Scott
Produced by Phil Ramone
All stops out here!
The electricity generated by Dave Grusin Presents West Side Story comes from the exhilarating sound of a big band with no holds barred. It swings, it jumps, it whirls, and listening to it, you won't be able to stop yourself from doing the same thing.
A historical recording, being the first music album available on DVD, it is also the only one Dave Grusin made for his short-lived N2K label. This production closed a decade of critically acclaimed tribute recordings offering Grusin interpretations of Gershwin, Ellington, Mancini and now, Bernstein.
Its prime qualities are the perfection of the musicianship and scintillating arrangements, putting it among the finest modern big band recordings. But at its heart is, of course, the great Leonard Bernstein music which has so much intrinsically that it lends itself to stretching in every which way, most particularly with jazz.
It is those roots in the original which are extended and expounded on here. At the center of a star-studded big band (the other prong of his 1990s recordings), Dave Grusin has created a sound that is radiant. The complex and dazzling orchestrations make every fragment of it a conversation piece, inducing passion and excitement.
The ever-present Latin tempo takes one directly back to the spirit of the original Broadway show and its theme of racial tensions on New York's West Side. In an esoteric way, this record manages to travel around the world, and discover itself right at home.
With John Patitucci on Bass and Dave Weckl on Drums, things start to sizzle from the first tense and driving chords of the “Prologue,” and it is evident that this blend of Bernstein and Grusin is surely going to fulfil the listener's expectations. The big band plus jazz sound mixed with Latin heat, notably Sammy Figueroa on percussion, sets a standard which is maintained on every number.
“Something's Coming” shines even brighter, thoroughly using the outstanding ensemble. Led in by a daydreaming piano, we have the first hint that something is indeed on its way. Once the thought takes hold, the entire group has a go at the theme, powerfully executing the melody in a most intricate and stylish manner.
"The Jet Song” then soars away, and musicians leave no question about it. These are definitely the `top cats in town!' In addition to a grooving Grusin piano solo, you have Ronnie Cuber on baritone saxophone and flutist George Young on piccolo, who amply convey the inherent bravado.
Things settle down to a softer mood, as Dave Grusin is joined by Jonathan Butler to recreate “Maria” with tender coaxing from woodwinds, muted trumpets and melodic saxophones. (He proved his thorough understanding of the piece 35 years earlier with his beautiful arrangement on Andy Williams' best-selling Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes album, one which the singer is still using today.)
"Cool” is as hip as the title indicates. This is one of the most fun cuts on the album. Including a blues-based Lee Ritenour guitar solo, the entire band is on familiar ground when illuminating just what `cool' is all about, most particularly the deep acoustic bass of John Patitucci. With a respectful nod at the song's original meaning, there is included enough of a threat here and there to remind us what the necessity to be cool was all about.
Another vocal brings Gloria Estefan approaching “Tonight,” not with exuberance, but warmth and quiet longing. Enhanced by strings, delicate piano and a wonderful saxophone solo, the additional Latina feeling Dave Grusin believed the singer could bring to the song, adds another layer to the performance.
All the light-heartedness, impishness and innocence of the original West Side Story production is conveyed as Dave Valentin and Dave Grusin give a minuet rendition of “I Feel Pretty.” They then turn on the Latin fire for a spiced up interlude, before returning to a baroque version in which the two musicians converse delightfully on flute and piano.
Romantic and yielding, a muted big band then harmonically floats into “One Hand, One Heart.” Truly serious students of the playing of Dave Grusin may concur that there is something extraordinarily unique about the reproduction of his piano here. Whereas the sound quality of the large arrangements rocks the room, there is an intimacy on this track which is almost uncanny - a communication of feeling which is incredibly sensual.
After a melodic introduction, a light string background and thoughtful sax solo support Jon Secada and Dave Grusin on a moving “Somewhere” which is especially faithful to the meaning of this lovely song.
If there can be a summit to what is ostensibly ten party pieces, it is the final offering, “America,” utilizing a chorus to lead into and provide the finale for the syncopated piano and big band splash. Winner of a Grammy award, the 7/4 time track offers something of everything which makes this such a noteworthy album - innovative arrangement, Latin zing, and terrific solo and ensemble playing. Brought together with sparks flying, it scorches everything in its path.
Even when considering the background of this CD, the electrical imagery remains appropriate, as Dave Grusin appeared to have been experiencing some kind of power surge during this period. He not only executed the elaborate and complex West Side Story project, but also completed a tasty tribute to Henry Mancini ("Two For The Road"). In addition to his usual plethora of sidelines, he further contributed heavily to Lee Ritenour's delightful "Twist of Jobim," scored the motion picture “Selena,” and served as vice chairman of n2k, with its myriad of tentacles including the precocious internet site, Music Boulevard.
"Dave Grusin Presents West Side Story" was released as a CD, DVD and also in DTS format.
Additional musicians: Bob Carlisle (French horn), John Clark (French horn), Jeff Clayton (oboe, flute, clarinet), Jerry Dodgion (alto sax, clarinet, flute), Glen Drewse (trumpet, flugelhorn), Lawrence Feldman alto sax, clarinet, flute), Sammy Figueroa (percussion), Greg Gispert (trumpet, flugelhorn), Birch Johnson (tenor trombone), Tony Kadleck (trumpet), Jeff Lang (French horn), Keith O'Quinn (tenor trombone), Jim Pugh (tenor trombone), Jerome Richardson (tenor sax, clarinet, flute, alto flute), Roger Rosenberg (bass sax, bass clarinet, E flat contra bass clarinet), Byron Stripling (trumpet), Dave Taylor (bass trombone)
Concert Master: Elena Barere
Violins: Abe Appleman, Barry Finclair, Cecilia Hobbs-Garner, Jean Ingraham, Regis Indiorio, Ann Leathers, Jan Mullen, Paul Peabody, John Pintavelle, Laura Seaton, Richard Sortomme, Marti Sweet, Donna Tecco
Violas: Sue Pray, Julian Barger, Mary Helen Ewing, Carol London
Celli: Richard Locker, Diane Barere
Additional vocals by Diva Gray, Darryl Tookes, Kevin di Simone, Jill dell' Abate, Hilary James, Karen Kamon, Joshua Tyler Crookham, Guy Finley, Mychael Lamorte
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