Basie did it, and now German based saxophonist/flutist Heinrich von Kalnein is the latest jazz musician to hearken back to music by The Beatles. Blackbird
is his easygoing, sometimes rousing tribute: a compilation of ten popular tunes by the Fab Four, filtered through a distinctively European style of jazz riffing. With his competent backing of trombone, piano, bass, even synthesizer, von Kalnein has an approach that demands little from the jazz listener. It’s that quality that boasts some of the strongest appeal and biggest caveats generated from a hearing of the work. For all its labor of love and sprightly moments, the work encounters a typical problem: listening to the original Beatles crooning is probably preferable.
Too much of this interpretation is just that, a recreation of a specific style of music that works best when it breaks free. Respectful, yes, but the tracks that work best belt out in fortissimo virtuosity, including the lively rendition of “Because.” Others, like “Light Blue,” are delicious mood pieces. Once in a while, a track like "The Word" pops up and ulimtately proves to be richer in orchestration and free in movement, but many takes are like "Norwegian Wood," too straightforward for their own good. As a whole, however, the album lacks the energy of its better moments, even if von Kalnein’s sprightly fluting and generally smooth sax jamming have a certain appeal. There’s sustained down-tempo rhythms on “Glass Onion,” for example, but far too much redundancy in approach overall. There’s a talent to track here, and the album offers much to enjoy, but it’s trapped in material that prevents its creator from really cutting loose.
Personnel: Heinrich von Kalnein --- saxophones & flutes
Ed Neumeister -- trombone
Uli Rennert -- nord lead syntheziser
Fritz Pauer -- piano
Wayne Darling -- bass
John Hollenbeck -- drums, toy-percussion
Luis Ribeiro -- percussion