The CD ends with Bob Haggart commenting on "Big Noise from Winnetka" as we listen to his 1995 rendition. This will bring you smiles and memories. But there's a lot more to the late bassist, composer and arranger than that. In 1939 he wrote "What's New" as a solo for Billy Butterield. Alec Wilder called it a "great, marvelously sentimental and groovy ballad." Another example of his gift for melody is 'My Inspiration", composed for Irving Fazola. Then there's those sparkling New Orleans scores; "At the Jazz Band Ball" and the high-stepping parades, "South Rampart" and "Mardi Gras." Blues too with "Dogtown." And his classic arrangements of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" which capture the raffish flavor of Catfish Row like no others.
Haggart considered the "Porgy and Bess" small band charts to be his best writing by far. They were recorded by an edition of the Lawson-Haggart Jazz Band in the late fifties. Unfortunately the recording was issued under Bob Crosby's name with no mention of musicians - or the arranger. It went nowhere. However, through some of the original charts augmented by transcriptions by Dick Hyman and Randy Sandke , we can now hear the score. It fills the first ten tracks of this CD.
Musical director Sandke and his all-star cast represent the high-quality musicianship that"Porgy and Bess" deserves. His brilliant horn shines through on "Summertime" and "Porgy" as it did on "What's New?." The other two trumpeters, Jon-Eric Kelso and Byron Stripling make their trumpets - and mutes- talk throughout. They whisper, growl and chatter. The versatile Ken Peplowski is everywhere, contributing some great solos along the way. John Allred lends his warm tone to " It Takes a Long Pull"while the rhythm section is the catalyst on the lightly swinging "Bess."
This CD is a fine tribute to Bob Haggart, reminding us of the days when life and music were simpler and happier but no less creative.