A few months back, Bob Dylan was relaxing in his hotel room in Toronto. He leaned back in his chair and said, "Man, I have been waiting to make a jazz record for a long time." He took a drag from his cigarette, peered from behind his wraparound shades, sighed and went on, "Yeah, all these years the record company execs thought I could not sing jazz. Now they know!"
Indeed. Dylan has picked up quite a band. He explains, "The spectrum of sound is inviolate (man, that's one word, not two) and so I sought diversity in freedom. Isn't that what jazz is all about?"
He certainly assembled an odd choice of tunes. Dylan nails down the reason in the liner notes. "There had to be standards, and I wanted to show the world that great pop and reggae songs could be transformed effectively into the harmonics of jazz." An interesting concept that takes "Jailhouse Rock" into swing, Pat Metheny describing arcs that sway like crazy and Evan Parker venting on the soprano sax with sly references to "Tennessee Waltz" and "Your Cheating Heart." Dylan sings with amazing grace, a trait he also lends to Marley's "African Herbsman." Diana Krall hits it off with stride piano and Ray Anderson mutes his trombone. "Isn't that fun?" interjects Dylan. "We did it in one toke, I mean take!" He laughs happily.
Metheny brings in a Latin feel to "In The Still Of The Night," and Parker adds to the feel with a tenor sax solo that almost never teeters on the brink of free jazz. But the best touch, surely, is that it is sung as a duet between Dylan and Anderson. And "When The Saints Come Marching In" Krall goes in for some boogie- woogie piano, Percy Heath slaps the bass, Metheny slips in filigrees of sound and Parker, Dylan and Anderson sing in glorious harmony. This one is a wow!
The near 20 minute version of "Run of the Mill" starts with a drum roll from Starr, the pulse rejected by Heath, who settles into a walking line. Anderson leaps in with sweeping blaps and smears. Dylan sings the first verse straight-ahead, even if the melody is rather indiscernible, and then he begins to scat for the next 18 minutes. "I did that for my friend George Harrison. He was the only one who could always decipher what I said. Once I started singing, his spirit inveigled my soul. Actually I wanted to record 'My Sweet Lord,' but I had gone through this born again thing and back again, so I didn't want to confuse myself singing about Harry Krishna."
This one is positively 4th Street.
Personnel: Bob Dylan: harmonica, vocals; Diana Krall: piano, vocals; Ray Anderson: trombone, vocals;
Evan Parker: soprano and tenor saxophones; Ringo Starr-drums; Pat Metheny: guitar; Percy