Beatles fans love to explain that the key to the successful partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney was their contrasting songwriting personalities – Lennon was the tongue in cheek sardonic wit, McCartney the earnest balladeer. On John Pizzarelli Meets the Beatles, a sharply conceived tribute which sets the duo's classics in a jazz trio with big-band arrangements, the singer/guitarist hits the mark more often when he's taking on the Lennon persona. He approaches "Cant' Buy Me Love," "When I'm 64," and "Get Back" with a playful wink, jumping off his speedy melody lines and the rising brass sections for extended improvisational tradeoffs with pianist Ray Kennedy, and adding colorful touches like scatting and even ad libbing his own lyrical verses based on the originals. Likewise, he attacks the all-instrumental "Eleanor Rigby" with a jumpy, swinging aggression. Pizzarelli, however, becomes overly schmaltzy in presenting ballads like "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" and "Long and Winding Road" too seriously, with maudlin, straightforward arrangements that grind the party to a halt. The one exception is the more percussive "Oh Darling," where his intense vocal helps the tune rise above the hotel lounge mentality.
Tune In, Turn On (subtitled To the Hippest Commercials of the Sixties) is an album by Benny Golson featuring music from television advertisements recorded in 1967 and released on the Verve label.
Hearing old favourite songs redone in a totally different manner from the original can be a challenge. It’s especially true when vocal songs that are basically embedded in your DNA are turned into instrumentals. So fans of the Beatles should approach this new compilation of jazz treatments of the Fab Four’s tunes with an open mind and fresh ears, because there are some magnificent performances here. Starting right off with Chick Corea and Gary Burton’s take on Eleanor Rigby. The two master musicians are totally in sync as they turn the tune into a driving, meditative work.
French pianist Sebastien Paindestre—last heard on the French/American quartet Atlantico's En Rouge (La Fabrica'son, 2016)—leads his own trio in a mostly-original program. The liner notes credit a Fender Rhodes technician, and the opener "Scottish Folk Song" (by Walt Weiskopf) shows why. After introducing the tune on acoustic piano with double bassist Jean-Claude Oleksiak and drummer Antoine Paganotti (with the pastoral sound promised by the title) the Rhodes makes a dramatic entry with a distorted, highly electronic sound. It's very distinctive, almost like a synthesizer rather than a piano, and it brings out an aggressive side to Paindestre's soloing. The instrument performs a similar function on the third track, "Gaza-Paris-Jerusalem (For Peace)." There it is used both as a solo voice and as the voice of conflict during a brief unsettled section. The Beatles tune "Mother Nature's Son" gets a memorable jazz treatment next. The Rhodes is used to play the head, this time with a more conventional celeste-like bell sound. Bassist Oleksiak also gets a nice solo showcase.
With the Beatles is a sequel of the highest order – one that betters the original by developing its own tone and adding depth. While it may share several similarities with its predecessor – there is an equal ratio of covers-to-originals, a familiar blend of girl group, Motown, R&B, pop, and rock, and a show tune that interrupts the flow of the album – With the Beatles is a better record that not only rocks harder, it's considerably more sophisticated…