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ALBUM REVIEW: "What's New? Reimagining Benny Goodman" 

Oran Etkin

"What's New? Reimagining Benny Goodman"


Although his latest album is an exploration of the music of Benny Goodman, Oran Etkin's CD is appropriately titled "What's New?": all 12 of the tracks are highly original takes on the spirit of Goodman's music. Like Goodman, Etkin was inspired by African-American music but can't help bringing his Jewish roots to the bandstand. Etkin is an acrobat on reeds, and because he alternates between clarinet, bass clarinet, and tenor sax, every cut sounds fresh. His band is also first rate.

Sullivan Fortner plays a style of piano fitting the mostly mid-20th-century repertoire; Matt Wilson handles every twist and turn beautifully on drums; and vibraphonist Steve Nelson is excellent throughout. Superb singer Charenee Wade breathes new life into the album's two vocal arrangements, "Why Don't You Do Right" and "After You've Gone." Ultimately it's Etkin's arrangements and transformations that make this a wonderful album. Especially strong are a highly abstracted rendition of "Where or When" and a fugue-like introduction and klezmer follow-through on Etkin's treatment of "Sing, Sing, Sing."

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