Having just the other day picked up the Harnancourt novo-operatic version of Porgy & Bess, a very Britten-esque affair I must say, I was ready and willing to hear the Gershwins' (and Heyward's) masterpiece set into yet another context, and David Link & Maria João, in A Different Porgy & Another Bess managed to radicalize things rather surprisingly within a big band / cinematic context. In fact, there are more than a few sympathies to the Harnancourt gig just in terms of bold moves and striking twists, but also fidelity to what the esteemed past composers put into print.
The band is the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, and each track is arranged by different ensemble members and others, yet everything coheres with a wild energy and irresistible modern swing. Linx is of course Porgy while João takes the Bess role. He's earthy and almost lounge lizardy while she sports a soaring nearly babydoll temptress voice. Neither holds back for a moment, diving into the deep end of their parts, and the band accentuates every shift in emphasis and inflection. João's I Love You Porgy is maddeningly seductive while Link is forever the cool cat, the urbane street feline with a knowing set of street smarts.
The band nabs a very generous collection of solos and group free flight, so the disc lacks for nothing. The disc's atmospherics and speed are heady, almost breathless in more than one place, not to mention kaleidoscopic. This is not a Porgy & Bess for the timid, even when considered against a number of other very good versions. Everyone here has managed to re-flesh the golden standards, resurrecting the song cycle into the modern age. If Harnoncourt was harmonizing with Britten, then whoever is responsible for this glorious romp, and that person's not identified in the promo disc or lit I have, well, he or she is at one with Stan Kenton and Gil Evans and should get some kind of medal.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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