Jazz Honors The Beatles

Michael Ricci By

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Of course, The Beatles, in their way, opened the doors to breaking down the rigid boundaries that then existed between all forms of popular music, and, even at the time, "world music." Anything seemed possible in the mid to late 1960s. Hard to believe that, at that same point in time, we had the great Miles Davis Quintet; the John Coltrane Quartet; and Ornette Coleman's Quartet too. I think everyone, no matter what their particular musical aesthetic leaning might have been, could appreciate the fantastic songwriting, the great singing, the incredibly creative production values, and the expansion of the popular song form. The music of The Beatles was so wonderful for its time, and it remains so today."

Steve Khan

The Beatles energized the entire world, musically and otherwise, with their look and their sound. The strongest impression that I have had over the years is that their music has a timeless quality to it, and I would guess that this must come from their gift for melody as much or more than anything else. Their tunes became production standard-bearers, of course, but it's the musical haiku-quality of their artistry that has most intrigued me over the years. The compactness and clarity, specificity and simple wonderfulness of their songs is what makes their music timeless to me.

I came of musical age with The Beatles accompanying my journey alongside the albums of Cannonball Adderly, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Stan Kenton, Oliver Nelson and Buddy Rich. And then along came Weather Report just about the time The Beatles stopped recording; and, for me, Weather Report became a new Beatles in the sense that all that band's recorded music, or most of it at least, had and retains that quality of timelessness. Most bands who added back beats to their swing vocabulary (i.e., went straight 8th-note), well, when I hear many of those recordings I see bell-bottomed pants and dumb shirts and far-out hair styles ... Weather Report, I hear great tunes with production qualities that have stood the tests of time as well as the Fab Four's music.

So, in many ways, The Beatles were not only a great band with great tunes: they became a reference point for all that followed.

Peter Erskine

I never bought a Beatles album. I heard a lot of their songs ,but even being 20 in 1965, I did not hear many songs before they had actually broken up.

There was too much other music going on in the '60s that I was listening to—Miles Davis, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, Paul Bley, Art Ensemble of Chicago, John Coltrane. What I heard on the radio from The Beatles was not something that really caught my attention, compared to the jazz that was happening at that time.

Later I listened more and, while I like a lot of their songs, they never really had an impact on my own music.

Arild Andersen

The Beatles' legacy is wound up with the entire history of the American popular song and, in a sense, the last step in the story. Gershwin, Rodgers, Porter, etc., all used the diatonic harmony of the four hundred year history of Western classical music, linked with lyrics to describe a situation, usually centered around love and the like. Lennon and McCartney distilled the harmony down to its bare elements in their songs, stripped of harmonic sophistication (compared to Porter, for example) but, in turn, even more direct in its communicative power. And of course the lyrics were clear, to the point and centered on subjects besides love—things of fancy and delight to a young mind.

They really challenged themselves and the audience when Sgt. Pepper's and Magical Mystery Tour, followed by The White Album, were released. They raised the ante both lyrically and texturally and, in the end, burned the candle to the end. What a great contribution to the western art song tradition and from a cultural standpoint. Of course, their look and "interests" (LSD, Indian stuff,etc.) did speak to a generation looking for spokesmen. As a direct effect on me musically, I can't really say there was much but, as noted, culturally for sure.

Dave Liebman

I began playing the guitar in the summer of 1963, approximately one year before The British Invasion took place. There were just as many accordion students as there were guitar students at the local music shop in the summer of '63. The Beatles' first performance in the States was in New York City on The Ed Sullivan Show in '64, kids were abandoning the accordion and switching to guitar like mad.

The Beatles pulled the rug out from Planet Earth in the '60s; the songs had incredible melodies and harmony and they made us smile—I knew, then and there, that I wanted to be a musician forever, and I never looked back.

Fast forward from 1964 to 2004. I was working with Dave Liebman in London at the Pizza Express. I went for an afternoon stroll somewhere on a deserted part of Dean Street; a limo pulled up to the sidewalk and Paul McCartney emerged from the limo. He and I face-to-face; I told him I was working at the Pizza and invited him to the gig. He never showed up but what a thrill to see him on the street. It is great to see that the next generation is picking up on The Beatles; they were and are the greatest!

Vic Juris

"Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play"—that's for sure! Sgt. Pepper's taught me to play as well. My friend had the album on at his house and gave me his guitar—the first time I picked one up. As he puts it, he was so mad that I already played better than him and he was the one taking lessons (ha!).

It was through playing along to that record that I fell in love with the guitar and decided to take lessons too. Later, I remember playing along to the whole album of Help over and over in my living room, my guitar plugged into the stereo.

The Beatles have always given me a vivid world of escape and adventure, and the uncompromising creativity and honesty of the group as a whole and John Lennon in particular has been a guiding light for me in my own journey in music. I love The Beatles!

Kurt Rosenwinkel

In 1961, I was still performing with the Buddy Rich Septet. Although we played the usual circuit in the US, Birdland in NYC, Pep's in Philly, Blue Note in Chicago, et al, Buddy veered from the tried and true and accepted a booking of a State Department tour. The tour included performances in Afghanistan, Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Iran. Our home was base Bombay, India where we also performed and included stints in New Delhi, Bangalore and Madras. We returned to NY in 1962, exhausted, but filled with the music from these diverse cultures.

During that year, The Beatles were recording their first hit single "Love Me Do," which I believe became a hit in the US in 1964. I checked them out on The Ed Sullivan Show, and frankly I didn't see what the fuss was all about. I grew up not only listening to jazz but was a fan of "The King Of The Moondogers," Alan Freed, who played R&B and Rock and Roll on his radio show in New York City on WINS.

As a teenager, I played jazz but danced to Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Bill Haley and the Comets. In the '40s I was hearing live big band jazz at the movie theaters on Broadway, and Diz, Bird and Bags 78s at home; in the '50s, I was attending the Alan Freed shows at the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn, where we kids were dancing in the aisles to Fats Domino and Little Richard. I also dug that there was always a big band backing up these acts! It was during that time I also got hip to Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and other legendary blues artists from friends who loved the blues. So upon first hearing the Beatles, I thought they sounded like a ripoff of the Everly Bros.

In 1964, I began playing with keyboardist, Warren Bernhardt, drummer Donald MacDonald, flautist Jeremy Steig and bassist Eddie Gomez. They had formed a jazz/rock group called Jeremy and the Satyrs. The band also featured a blues singer and guitarist, Adrian Guillery. The group began performing at the Cafe Au Go Go, Bitter End, Electric Circus, and The Fillmore opposite folk, blues and rock bands. They also became the backup group for the folk- singer Tim Hardin. I joined the band after the Satyrs' first recording on Columbia Records, and suddenly I was exposed to hearing the music of Dylan, Hendrix, Zappa and the many rock and folk artists who played that circuit.

When I first heard "Help" in 1965 I was hooked, and then upon their release Rubber Soul, I was blown away! By then the Satyrs were heading into a more psychedelic free/jazz-rock band, as were The Beatles on Rubber Soul. 'Til this day, I'll occasionally play "Yesterdays," "Norwegian Wood" or "Here, There And Everywhere" as a solo piece at one of my group concerts.

Those Beatles albums and all of their later works shifted my musical world off its axis. I recall feeling the same anticipation and excitement from rumors that a forthcoming Beatles album was about to be released, as I did any jazz record during the years the group recorded.

When I first formed my label, NYC Records, the second release was A Guitar Tribute To The Beatles—Come Together. I wasn't at all surprised by how The Beatles shaped the artistry of the many diverse guitarists who participated in the project. The performances on that first album and the subsequent second CD with another lineup of great guitarists are a testament to the musical magic inspired by The Beatles.

Mike Mainieri

Like a lot of people, I was really influenced by The Beatles. I had been playing the guitar for about six months when they came along. I'd say they impacted my music in several ways, but most importantly that they inspired me to keep going and work harder. It was quickly obvious that guitar playing was "cool" and a pathway to personal success and satisfaction. It never even occurred to me that it might not work out. They were certainly a big part of my early music experience, but not who I was emulating. I was a dork who wanted to play the blues, and looked down at all the other 15 year-olds who didn't know "the real shit." I had Beatle boots but my mother wouldn't let me wear them.

John Scofield

It's funny, as a kid I really didn't like The Beatles. I was into Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, even Elton John (his early stuff is great), but I didn't really didn't dig The Beatles. Maybe it was because they were older or something. But of course, as with anything great, I couldn't ignore them at a certain point in my career and I realized how fantastic they were.
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