Jazz & Blues Magazine reviews Wayne Alpern, Frankenstein

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Page Twenty Four September • October 2021 • Issue 398

by Ron Weinstock


Wayne Alpern Frankenstein
This is the latest album from Alpern, a New York based
composer, arranger, and scholar who integrates
popular and jazz idioms with classical techniques. On
this album, Alpern turns his attention to tunes from
a varied body of composers, including Carole King,
Herbie Hancock, Duke Ellington, Stephen Sondheim,
Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Winwood. He has assembled
quite a studio band for this recording. The studio band’s
members are David Mann – reeds; John Patitucci –
bass, Clint DeGanon – drums, Andy Ezrin – keyboards,
Tatum Greenblatt – trumpet, Brad Mason – trumpet,
Mike Boscarino – trombone, Mike Davis – trombone,
and Kevin Ramessar – guitar.

In addition, he has sampled speeches from President Obama and voices
from Cole the VII, ParaNoah, and Voice of a Nation.
Wah-wah guitar and bass start Carole King’s “You
Got a Friend” with a snippet of President Obama’s
speech welcoming folk to a performance in King’s
honor. With a crisp funk groove, Alpern’s arrangement
provides a slightly restrained Brass Band feel. Alpern’s
writing with the interaction between guitarist Ramessar
and the horns (Mann being outstanding) makes this a
vital adaptation. Marvin Gaye’s early Motown hit “Ain’t
That Peculiar” receives a live treatment with a rapper
over the tempestuous performance with noteworthy
solos from Mann and Davis. Sondheim’s Send in the
Clowns’ is a feature for Mann’s soprano sax and Greenblatt’s
muted trumpet set against the musical colors
of Alpern’s setting.

Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” is a favorite
of many in part because of the underlying motif
that allows many to offer varying interpretations, and
Alpern’s arrangement underlies some inspired playing.
Even more inspired is Alpern’s rearrangement of
Duke Ellington’s “Black Beauty.” The arrangement
has swing-era-styled horn ensemble passages that
sandwich the classic Ellington composition with fascinating
interplay between the horns. Alpern provides
a reggae groove for Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,”
which comes across as a feature for Mann’s sax against
Ezrin’s punchy organ.

A voice asks, “Are you Ready To Dance” which
opens the spirited rendition of “Dancing in the Streets.”
Also of note is the bubbly rendition of “More Than
Yesterday” and the driving performance of “Gimme
Some Lovin’” that closes this album. Wayne Alpern has
provided imaginative arrangements that bring a freshness
to some songs that are wonderfully performed here.

Kari Gaffney

Kari Gaffney

Since 1988 Kari-On Productions has helped artists get an even footing in the industry through jazz promotion in the genres of Jazz, World & Latin Jazz through Jazz Radio and Publicity. Why do we do both, because they compliment each other, and we care about fiscal longevity for the artist.

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