Title - 'Gershwin Reimagined'
Artist - Shelly Berg / José Serebrier
For those not in the classical know, Shelton "Shelly" Berg is an American pianist, composer, arranger, orchestrator, and producer.
Indeed, he is the Dean and Patricia L. Frost Professor of Music at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami.
Berg began his career at San Jacinto College North in Northshore, Texas, as Chair of Instrumental Music, 1979-1981. He then served as Chair of Instrumental Music and Commercial Music at San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas from 1981-1991.
He performed extensively in professional groups including Larry and Marilyn and the Brass Connection, featuring trumpeter Larry Martinez and singer Marilyn Savage.
In fact, and interestingly enough, he learned to play Latin montunos from Kido Zapata during this time.
Produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Gregg Field, Gershwin Reimagined features pianist Shelly Berg and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by José Serebrier, with special guest artists.
1. 'Rhapsody In Blue'
2. 'An American In Paris / Home Blues'
3. 'I Loves You Porgy / My Man's Gone Now'
4. 'Fascinating Rhythm'
5. 'Three Preludes'
6. 'I Got Rhythm'
Recorded at the famed Air Lyndhurst Studios in London, the album is a sonically hi-def contemporary treatment of classic Gershwin pieces and features virtuosic playing by Grammy-winning musicians Arturo Sandoval and Mark O'Connor as well as vocal performances by Ledisi and Monica Mancini.
Having now listened to it twice through in the same sitting, I have to say that, and in all honesty, I went in with a little trepidation about the whole "reimagined" thing, but can now say that I've never heard Gershwin (and an classical orchestra recording, to boot) sound so righteously contemporary.
To my ear, the RPO and Shelly Berg have somehow come together to completely reinvent the wheel behind these Gershwin classics and have subsequently brought forth a set of quite stunning new arrangements to behold.
Indeed, the insertion of the Shelly Berg Trio statements into the classic Gershwin piano favorites makes a big impression here. Beginning with a bright and breezy, fun and joyous, near half hour epic 'Rhapsody In Blue' that bleeds seamlessly into the playfully sprite 'An American in Paris / Home Blues.'
With the lush vocal tones of Dorothy Heyward front and center, 'I Loves You Porgy / My Man's Gone Now' are two show stoppers here, that's for sure, and they are backed by my own personal favorite here, the vibrantly frenetic 'Fascinating Rhythm.'
The sternly uplifting 'Three Preludes' is a joy to behold and then the album rounds out with the near 13 minute stunner, 'I Got Rhythm.' The jazz standard, complete with its majestically chord progression (known as the "rhythm changes"), is the foundation for many other popular jazz tunes (such as Charlie Parker's and Dizzy Gillespie's bebop standard 'Anthropology (Thrivin' on a Riff)'), but here, via Berg and company, is given a whole new breath of life.