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Jazz Honors The Beatles

Michael Ricci By

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Even as they made their way to the fur coats and the wild outfits, they had a sense of the "group," but each member seemed to maintain his musical and literal personality. All these things combining for a great musical experience and hopefully, in some way, making its way into my music.

John Pizzarelli

I recently bought the reissued version of Rubber Soul at a Starbucks. This was one of my favorite recordings when I was a teenager. Here it is 45 years later, and the music sounds just as good! The writing is so clever, and the production is totally happening. These cats were bad! And George Martin was a master of production. The sound of the instruments are killing! And the vocals are so cleverly doubled and arranged in a very musical way. Great arrangements, period!

Ringo gets that classic snare drum crack that became so influential for years to come. The lyrics are poetic, heart-felt and clever. What can you say! It's all there.

Really the only thing I noticed that I hadn't before is that on "Drive My Car" Ringo does these funny little snare drum fills that are totally out of time, but he manages to make them work anyway. This reminded me of when I was on Buddy Rich's band and he would have smoked a little too much weed, and on his drum solo launch into an imitation of a bad rock drummer, playing fills all out of time, kind of like someone trying to talk after having novacaine for a dental procedure. But in all fairness, Ringo set the standard for rock drumming during that time. He made the music feel so good!

The Beatles took the tradition of great songwriting and put their own thing on it is such a contemporary and timeless way. It all still sounds great today.

Bob Mintzer

I'm a jazz singer, but I'm also a songwriter. I grew up admiring great songwriters, and three of the Fab Four, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, were brilliant songwriters. Not only did I grow up loving, devouring and studying the Beatles' albums, I've covered their songs on my jazz records. When I cover a modern pop song, I take it apart and reduce it to its essence and then rebuild it as a jazz tune. If it's a great song, it can stand up to re-interpretation in many different styles. I'd rather start with a song that isn't "jazzy" when I cut a pop song, so the first tune I tried was "I Feel Fine" which was a rock and roll song, rather than something like "Michelle" or "Norwegian Wood," which are commonly covered by jazz musicians. I like to take a song a long way from it's original recorded version. That's a lot more interesting to me. I've also covered two wonderful John Lennon tunes, "Love," and "Jealous Guy, which appears on my latest album.

Curtis Stigers

"I was in competition for who had the most Beatles records with a few of my friends at around age 10. Still listening and loving those records. Been through vinyl, cassettes, CDs, and now MP3s. i was pretty blown away when Sir Paul showed up at a gig of mine a few years back. He's still hungry for new energy and music. Maybe that's one of the many reasons they were such a great band."

Ben Perowsky

The timeless music that The Beatles created remains a source of listening enjoyment and artistic inspiration. The collective growth that occurred in their songwriting and album concepts amazes me every time. I listen to some of their later records like Sgt. Pepper's or Abbey Road. I would be hard pressed to name another rock band that had the musical breadth and depth of The Beatles.

Steve Smith

The Beatles have always been an enormous influence on my music and playing. Specifically, different harmonic passages they use have found their way into my music time and time again. I'll also find myself trying to imitate Lennon's voice or McCartney's bass sound at the piano or keyboard. But one of the main influences I get from their music time and time again are the recordings. The sounds they achieved at the time with such limited technology. "Tomorrow Never Knows" from Revolver is an excellent example. On that song, McCartney came in with the idea of using tape loops and tape reversal. Also, Lennon's vocals were run through a Leslie speaker which had never been done before. It's these kind of techniques I find myself using constantly when recording at home or elsewhere. Don't even get me started on Sgt Peppers...

Frank LoCrasto

I grew up with the Beatles. My mother had a bunch of their records, like Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Peppers, also a live concert from Hollywood Bowl in which all that is audible is screaming girls. I think it's fascinating that a group that gained super popularity based on idolatry ended up making music that rivaled any of the great composers in it's creativity and purpose. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were one of the most prolific songwriting teams of the modern era: how many Beatles songs are immediately recognizable?

George Colligan

I was one of the few people on February 9, 1964 who didn't see the Beatles performance on the Ed Sullivan show, but boy did I hear about it the next day at school.

I liked some of their songs but at the time I was more into Motown and James Brown. Every Beatles album always had songs that I liked. AM radio played them every hour on the hour. Rubber Soul and Revolver got my attention as full LPs but it was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band that pulled me all the way in to them on a deeper musical level.

What I discovered was that the Beatles weren't afraid to break convention in their songwriting and records. "Good Morning" and "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" have odd meter bars. From the beginning they always used Major 6th and dominant 9th chords reflecting their affinity with jazz and rhythm and blues. The use of interesting choices in rock/pop music instrumentation (piccolo trumpet, sitar, french horn, string ensembles etc). They used the recording studio to experiment with extensive editing techniques and innovations like running a track backwards and recording on top of that. They wrote and recorded pop, country and western, rock, blues and ballads.

My writing as a composer and arranger is most directly influenced by the Beatles work. I have always admired how colorful and vivid their music sounded. They opened minds and musical ears to possibilities.

Wayne Wallace

One might not expect a jazz vibraphonist to have that much in common with the Beatles. However, they set the bar for creating enduring popular music, and I think about them all the time. Any performer has to be in awe of the virtuosity of the young Fab Four. Any studio musician has to be amazed by the recordings they achieved with producer George Martin. And any composer has to be inspired by the sheer beauty of their melodies, and the inventiveness and timelessness of their songs.

Steve Shapiro

The Beatles are part of my musical DNA. I grew up listening to them on my parents' stereo, and I can still remember putting on the "White Album" to listen to "Julia" and "Blackbird" over and over again. I also recorded a version of "For No One" with Bill Charlap, Avishai Cohen and Andy Watson for a demo many years ago that not many people have ever heard! I still think it's one of the great heartbreak songs. I don't think I consciously ever tried to write like them, but I think the emotion in their songs is what I carry with me. I've always been most attracted to the wistful and sad songs in their catalog. "She's Leaving Home," "Eleanor Rigby," "Because," "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away," etc...

I am still inspired by the incredible heart and craft of their music. I aspire to be so joyous and creative in my own expression.

Joel Frahm

When the Beatles first come on the scene, I wasn't too impressed. With Sgt. Pepper's, everything changed about the Beatles. I was amazed how they had grown as a band and individually. The musicianship and compositions were stunning. They had elements of all types of music which made me think they were truly a "Fusion" band. After Sgt. Pepper's, I went back and listened with different ears to their earlier records. They stood up extremely well. I have everything they've recorded plus numerous videos and have admired and enjoyed their music. The "White Album," Abbey Road, Revolver, Let it Be, they're all special in some way. Long live the Beatles!

Jack Wilkins

The musicality and arrangements of much of the Beatles' compositions has impacted how I arrange American Songbook tunes and jazz standards because of the similar pop style that each possesses. I also grew up playing and listening to them a lot on the radio before I listened to or learned anything about jazz. Their harmonies were and still are quite hip for pop music.

Dena DeRose

Growing up I was exposed to my two older brother's recordings of The Beatles such as For Sale, A Hard Day's Night and Help!. The music with its beautiful melodies and fascinating sonorities impressed me immediately. It seemed to connect to my other interests in jazz, classical, theater music and R&B. However, it was really the later stuff that knocked me out! Their music really started changing when they stopped performing live and became a studio band. This transformation began around the time of Rubber Soul and especially Revolver and continued through all the subsequent recordings. These albums contain many beautiful examples of studio experimentation, orchestration and song writing. Their lyrics combine elements of surrealism, postmodernism and social commentary. The idea of the concept album or suite in pop/rock music really takes off with Sgt. Pepper's and continues with beautiful sequences such as the second half of Abbey Road. Seldom if ever has avant-garde strains been as popular or exposed to a wider audience as in pieces from "The White Album," Revolver, Abbey Road or Magical Mystery Tour.

The Beatles, with considerable help from George Martin, created a body of work which influenced highly divergent musicians in multiple ways.

Frank Carlberg

In the months prior to 1993, my ex-wife Nancy often played the Sgt. Pepper's CD at home while working, and her interest in The Beatles served to rekindle mine, especially for George Harrison's "Within You Without You." As The Beatles arrived on the scene in the early '60s, my sister Laurie was the first in our household to go nuts for them, and she was the only one, amongst her girlfriends, to be totally wild for George. So, when Mike Mainieri asked me to contribute a track to his project: A Guitar Tribute To The Beatles—COME TOGETHER (NYC Records, 1993), a two-song George Harrison medley seemed fitting, and "Blue Jay Way" from Magical Mystery Tour appealed to my bizarre musical sensibilities.
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