CD: Bill Potts

Bill Potts, The Jazz Soul of Porgy & Bess (Fresh Sound)

Potts Porgy & BessIn jazz, 1959 was a watershed, milestone, landmark (choose your cliché). Clichés embody truths; that’s how they become clichés. The truth is that this all-star recording of Porgy & Bess was one of the most important of the final year in a golden decade of jazz in New York. Potts’s arrangements are his most celebrated, for good reason. There is passion and commitment in the playing of the 19-piece ensemble and in solos by Art Farmer, Bill Evans, Phil Woods, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Harry Edison, Gene Quill, Bob Brookmeyer and Rod Levitt, among others. Remastering and CD packaging are consistent with the quality of the music.

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  1. Marvin Thomas says

    I loved that recording, listened to it 100s of times. A great line up of players.

    And then when you could purchase these charts….what a thrill to read down “Summertime” and the others.

    • Rob D says

      I scrounged up a copy of the older CD reissue after so many people recommended it after a discussion of great Gershwn inspired jazz. Still one of my fave sessions..I’ll have to grab a copy and see if the sound has been improved, but I know the masters are gone. Just like to encourage record companies to make rarer jazz and stuff that many people have not heard available once again.

      Gershwin was one of the gateway drugs into jazz for many beautiful melodies that enticed me into a wider world of sound via the likes of Miles Davis et al.

  2. John Pickworth says

    One of the greatest big band albums ever! I started with a cassette copy, then got an O/O LP with wonderful artwork, and now have a CD of it. Have kept the LP for the artwork. Also have the chart of “Summertime”.

  3. says

    I’m old enough to have bought that record when it came out — a deluxe package with 3-4 pages of photos of the band. I had not heard of Bill Evans at the time, but he has a simple, brief (8-bar) solo on “It Ain’t Necessarily So” that blew me away. Alas, my record disappeared somewhere along the way decades ago, but I still carried much of he music in my head.

  4. says

    I’ve always thought that this was great music, almost destroyed by its Production. The first version I heard was almost a Stereo Demonstration presentation — almost no centre channel, solos would jump left-to-right halfway through, etc. Too much distraction — I couldn’t really enjoy it until I heard a mono copy.

    Am I mistaken that the master tapes have gone astray, and that CD copies are therefore needle-drops, regardless of the issuing company?

    • Patrick W Goodhope says

      Yes, that is correct, Ted. Jack Towers did the transfers from several mint copies of the original LPs at some point in the late 1980s or early 1990s. How do I know that, you ask? Jack told me.

  5. Jack Greenberg says

    My college jazz band played all these charts with Bill Potts conducting in 1965. One night, a few of us got to hang with Bill for several hours and listen to some stories about the the original recording session. One particularly interesting story involved the tune, “Oh, Lawd I’m On My Way”. If you know the arrangement, you know that it’s a real “barn-burner” tempowise. Bill said that the cut they used on the record was the first read-through of the chart. In oither words, the band sight-read it and they used it. He said there was only one mistake and it was towards the end of the chart when the tempo slowed to half-time for two bars and the “Bess,You Is My Woman” theme was played by the whole band in unison, then the tempo picked back up to the end. He said Zoot missed the tempo change and went right through it twice as fast as he should have. Now you can only imagine that a bunch of college kids listened to the recording hundreds of times in preparation for the concert, and I never once heard the mistake. After Bill mentioned it, we put the record on, and sure enough you can hear a tenor player miss the tempo change.

  6. says

    I was a young ballet dancer taking class on B’Way at the time of this release. Every young dancer interested in jazz knew this music; as, of course, every musician in all the watering holes around Local 802. I hope Fresh Sound has given a royalty to those brilliant musicians and especially the Bill Potts Family before releasing it and collecting royalties for themselves. Thank you for the contribution you have made Doug!