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Jazz Honors The Beatles

Michael Ricci By

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When The Beatles first emerged at the forefront of The British Invasion, few could have predicted the impact they'd have beyond the world of rock and pop. Early albums, and songs like "Love Me Do," "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand," were hardly the grist for something more.

But by the time The Beatles reached the turning point of Rubber Soul (Apple/EMI, 1965), a change was in the air. The Fab Four—John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr—began to transcend the simple (but undeniably appealing) pop structures of their early hits, incorporating elements from farther afield. They'd already scored a major hit earlier in the year with the surprisingly sophisticated ballad, "Yesterday," from Help! (Apple/EMI, 1965), but with "Norwegian Wood," the beginnings of an interest in Indian music was made manifest by George Harrison's simple but effective sitar work, while "Michelle" represented another move towards richer songwriting.

From that point forward, The Beatles' may still have been a pop band at heart, but experimentation was also at its core, a heady combination of the lightening speed growth by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison as writers and producer George Martin's sonic innovations. Revolver (Apple/EMI, 1966) led to a string of seminal albums, all groundbreaking in individual ways. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Apple/EMI, 1967), Magical Mystery Tour (Apple/EMI, 1967), The Beatles (Apple/EMI, 1968) and Abbey Road (Apple/EMI, 1969) were all filled with vividly memorable songs, and remarkable, forward-thinking production.

The Beatles' impact on the pop world was already cemented, but it wasn't long before artists in the jazz world realized there was plenty of potential to be found. Over the past 40 years, Beatles tunes have been stretched, twisted and reworked by artists ranging from Buddy Rich, Wes Montgomery, Marian McPartland, Sonny Rollins and Benny Goodman to Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau, Cassandra Wilson, Chris Potter, Tony Williams and Jaco Pastorius. Entire albums have been devoted to the music of The Beatles by John Pizzarelli, Mike Mainieri, and Joel Harrison, while the BeatleJazz trio has released four full albums dedicated to the music by the Fab Four.

With the recent, long overdue release of the remastered Beatles collection, AAJ decided to reach out to the jazz world, to find out just how pervasive the group's reach has been. Here are the words of nearly 80 artists, telling how The Beatles affected their music... and, in many cases, their lives.

I remember very well hearing and then seeing the Beatles for the first time, listening to their records and, I confess, getting a Beatle haircut in my Mom's kitchen! Who wasn't affected by the Beatles? I didn't really learn guitar like many others did from that school but sure listened to and loved their music. I also had the rare privilege of of being George Harrison's second guitarist on the only full blown tour he ever did, known as the Dark Horse Tour with Ravi Shankar, sixteen Indian musicians and a host of rock heavyweights in the band. Wow! I hung at George's place at Hendley On Themes, listened to Ravi rehearse there, drank tea and recorded with George.

He was a sweet cat, always nice and complimentary, full of life and humor. Sad he left so soon.

The Beatles enriched us all, so glad we had the Beatles.

Robben Ford

There were ten kids in our family. We played at being the Beatles down in our cellar. We'd wait for our chance to be John, or Paul or the quiet ones wanted to be George, or Ringo with the pots and pans... the first 1/2 hour one person would be Paul and then you'd switch out. How did they influence me musically? Its hard to tell because they were so integrated into our lives for a while there. I always knew I wanted to be a musician, and seeing how they just sang about whatever was happening to them showed me that music is not separate from one's life. Their songs have a perfect combination of simplicity and fearless elaborating, always fresh and unexpected. I just loved 'em. Here's a little clip of Peter Eldridge and I singing "She's Leaving Home" at Birdland.

Kate McGarry

One of the most groundbreaking units in the history of music, their music is arguably the most captivating example of creativity from the 20th century! —Christian Scott

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