I was not holding out much hope for these recordings. I had just listened to and reviewed Bobby Timmons— Quartets and Orchestra (Milestone 47091), which included some jazz treatments of late 1960s pop songs that did not completely work. In that case, I felt that the effort to assimilate more contemporary pop songs into the jazz standard canon had failed (thought the disc is worthwhile for the remaining pieces). Experiments with POP, the new release by the Gordon Beck Quartet contains all such music...superbly performed, I might add.
To date, the last disc of this type I even remotely was interested in was Herbie Hancock's The New Standard (Verve 529584, 1996). I felt that Hancock's The New Standard was only partially successful in attempting to integrate today's pop music into the jazz vernacular. Experiments with POP, on the other hand, is very successful, taking such disparate songs such as Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'", the Beatles "Michelle", and the who's "I Can' See For Miles". Pianist Gordon Beck proves to be a master at seamlessly importing this popular music into the software of jazz and transforming it into a product that is at once both challenging and enjoyable. Johnny Mclaughlin's guitar adds to Beck's formidable piano to form a driving front for the capable rhythm section of bassist Clyne and drummer Oxley. The Beach Boy's "Good Vibrations" is transformed into a concerto for guitar and piano, while "Sunny", perhaps the best treatment on the disc, is a breezy piano solo. A very pleasant surprise.
The second in the inaugural release of Art of Life was pianist Gary Husband's The Things I See— Interpretations of the Music of Allan (Soft Machine, Gong) Holdsworth. Husband, a multi-instrumentalist, multi-genre-busting musician from Leeds, England, takes a plaintive piano stance on some interesting music composed by an able purveyor of electric fusion. The result is music as ethereal as Keith Jarrett's and grounded as Geoff Keezer's. Listening to this disc is a pleasant way of spending a languid afternoon.
Experiments With POP: These Boot Are Made For Walking; Norwegian Wood; Sunny; Up, Up And Away; Michelle; I Can See For Miles; Good Vibrations; Monday, Monday. (Total Time: 39:32)
The Things I See: The Sixteen Men Of Tain; Shadows Of; Temporary Fault; Mr. Berwell; The Things You See; Wish; Devil Take The Hindmost; Kinder; Looking Glass. (Total Time: 39:32)
The Gordon Beck Quartet: Gordon Beck: Piano; Johnny Mclaughlin: Guitars; Jeff Clyne: Bass; Tony Oxley: Drums.
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith. We hung out at my Aunt Kate's Soul Food restaurant in Harlem after the matinees at the Apollo where I listened to their stories. I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician from then on. My mother wanted me to play piano, but my Aunt bought me a guitar. I've been playing ever since.
At my mother's early prompting, I first sang Blue Velvet at my Catholic elementary school...and all the nuns came running in and asked me to sing again, so I knew I must have sounded pretty good. I've been singing ever since.
I met Tony Bennett in Miami and he inspired me to return to New York. He was a great mentor.
The best show I ever attended is mpossible to say, I've seen so many great shows. From Tony Bennett to Pat Martino, Return to Forever to Weather Report...I've seen some great performances.
My advice to new listeners is don't let jazz intimidate you, the music has something for every listener and it is our American gift to the world.