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Jazz Honors The Beatles

Michael Ricci By

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Sometime during my 8th year of life, I discovered that my parents had a collection of Beatles albums. They were Rubber Soul, Magical Mystery Tour, Sgt. Pepper's, Abbey Road, and the two collections with the cover of the band looking down over the railing ("Red Album" 1962-66, and "Blue Album" 1967-1970). I remember every detail of these records, the condition of the jackets, which songs had scratches, which song marked the point of flipping the album over, etc. During that year, I learned every song on them, and in so doing, learned a lot about the guitar and music in general. I generally think about this as the point in my life of discovering real music. But there was a missing link in the collection, a mysterious recording I had heard about called "The White Album." The unattainability of this record (remember, this is pre-internet, and also in small-town Pacific Northwest) made it even more desirable, and the idea that there were more Beatles songs out there to hear was driving me crazy. Throughout that year, I dropped hints, then asked for, then begged my parents for a copy of this record. On my birthday, it finally arrived, mysterious as I expected with its blank cover and title "The Beatles" at a slightly skewed angle. I immediately went to the record player and listened through the first three sides, in total amazement, with the feeling of hearing a great story—not wanting it to end, but at the same time wanting to know the final outcome. Then, at the end of the fourth side, a strange voice began chanting "number nine, number nine, number nine..." panning left and right, followed by the strangest and most beautiful collection of sounds I had ever heard. It was my ninth birthday, and the appearance of this chanting voice was confirmation to me that The Beatles were not only the greatest thing in the entire world, but also that they were speaking to me personally, that there was some convergence of the fates that led me to hear that song on that particular day.

Miles Okazaki

I've always been a creative musician. Even as a teen I could always conjure up some pretty interesting music even though my experience was narrow and my chops limited.

For awhile I studied with a great composition teacher who surprised me with a question when I was mired down in the middle of a piece. "What are you trying to say?" he asked. I was sort of dumbstruck. I guess I was just trying to solve musical problems... you know, establish an intro, get a tempo going, state a main idea, and then...? Well I didn't have an answer for him and it took awhile to even figure out the question.

Finally, in a few years, I began to understand that solving composing issues, one measure at a time was OK, but after awhile all the pieces can start to sound the same! It really helps to have a scene, an imaginary movie or a personal feeling to act as a springboard. With those in mind, you can actually write many different pieces, not just one piece many times!

During those years of musical soul searching, the Beatles came along and I was awed that so much of their music not only portrayed vivid emotional landscapes but that the breadth and scope and variety seemed limitless. They were just kids! It was almost like people were mailing them weird little movies and they would just set them to music. In just a few years they created a little universe of scenes that one could never visit in real life. To this day, so much of what they created was so personal that I don't think many singers can touch it. I speak of course about "Lucy in the Sky" or "Strawberry Fields" or "She's Leaving Home." That stuff is the musical equivalent of Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte!

Even the great songwriters like Gershwin, Kern and Porter merely wrote an awful lot of love songs... they fell into the categories of "me," "you" or "us." But the Beatles tapped into the first generation where youth split away into their own pot filled, rebellious "baby boom" universe, turned culture on its head and were there with a correspondingly original soundtrack.

All these years, the Fab Four have been acting as a silent tribunal, inspiring me and making me aware of the importance of breaking rules, being bizarre, taking chances and leaving no doubt about what I'm setting out to "say." Nobody was ever better at that-not Duke Ellington, nor John Williams or even Stevie Wonder.

Marius Nordal

I fell in love with The Beatles when I was a very young kid and they became a bit of an obsession for me as I got older and their popularity grew. I was along for the ride from the beginning when they had their first major hits on the charts in the early 1960s, "Love Me Do," "P.S. I Love You" and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." (This was before I was five years old!) In '68 when the White Album was out I had learned all of the lyrics to the songs and was intrigued by the 'Paul is dead' rumors, trying to identify the clues that were supposedly etched into that album cover and in the lyrics of "Revolution Number 9" when played backwards.

As a songwriting team, the duo of Lennon and McCartney were unsurpassed in the second half of the 20th Century. And like the great teams before them, their songs have had lasting value not only in American society but worldwide. There are blues tunes like "Come Together" and "Can't Buy Me Love," standards like "The Long and Winding Road," "Hey Jude" and "Michelle" and so many others in between.

Because The Beatles' music is not only classic, but was like a soundtrack for so much of my early life, it's no wonder that I would be compelled to play songs from their rich catalogue. The depth of their songwriting, harmonically and melodically, has enticed me to want to play and record them on many occasions.

Matt Jorgensen

Even before I knew what music was, I knew The Beatles. The first music video I ever saw was George Harrison's "I Got My Mind Set On You." I don't know if it changed my life or not, but I remember it was pretty awesome. Wrapping my head around all of the things that they accomplished in less than 10 years is like trying to wrap my head around the size of the universe. When I was in high school, there was an exchange student from Russia who loved The Beatles. We played in a band together. His accent went away when he'd sing—it was my first realization that music knows absolutely no political, or geographical boundaries. I wish I had been in The Beatles.

Chad McCullough

"My mom had an original serial numbered version of "The White Album," and when I was a kid that was the first record that I fell in love with, and played endlessly. It really changed the way I think about everything. I still listen to it today, and each time I hear new things in the recording."

Matt Jorgensen

The music of the Beales had a major impact for me being as they appeared on the scene as I was in the process of making the the first Gary Burton Quartet, so we included a lot of different musical influences, not just types of jazz.

Gary Burton

I have been and am seriously influenced by the Beatles in so many ways. They personify some many interesting qualities. The Beatles were so creative on so many levels.

Whether it was the music, the production values and the inventiveness of both. The image they created, even from project to project how they changed their focus artistically, their musical vision and how they matured, progressively challenging the audience yet drawing the audience right into what they were doing at that moment. Sure they had some awesome help from visionary producer George Martin. No matter, they were open to experimenting and creating new music at every turn. Something I feel has been lost in music of today on some level.

I remember being totally blown away in succession, by two of their recordings; Rubber Soul is the sixth album by The Beatles, Released 3 December 1965, which seemed to appear in the record racks at the Sam Goodies record shop in my hometown over night with no fanfare. I remember taking the album home to listen with bated breath and after listening through, I couldn't believe how prolific they were and what amazing texture the recording had. Revolver was the seventh album by The Beatles, released on 5 August 1966. I think these recordings eventually changed the way I listened music and this music on these recordings introduced me to a greater sense of what music should be, especially learning from the experimental aspects and techniques in the recordings themselves. Willing to take risk in composition and in the sound of different instruments. I still enjoy listening to these recording some forty years later. There's something to be said about that.

As a producer, musician and composer, I have excelled by mere fact that I intently listened and studied this music and feel that it was a true master class in sound design, recording technique, performance and music composition.

Jimmy Haslip

For me, The Beatles were the beginning of everything. I think they triggered my life long obsession with music. Aged 7, I used to get my parents to put on the record Sgt. Pepper's and I was in a magical world till it ended. I always particularly loved the 1967-70 Blue album compilation. It is simply the soundtrack to my life. I love the songs, the voices, the incredible arrangements, the imagination, the musical ambition, the power and heaviness, the melody and lightness, the sheer beauty and way the songs touch the soul. In addition, most of my favourite rock bands cite The Beatles as a major influence and the later Beatles music is clearly the birth of progressive rock too.

As a musician and composer, I have been inspired by all the above elements of Beatles music and sometimes it is almost weird when I realise that a compositional idea is directly derived from a Beatles track.... again! Shame there were no more saxophone solos other than "Lady Madonna" though (Ronnie Scott R.I.P.).

Across the Universe and In My Life, and in the end... the Beatles rule!

Theo Travis

The Beatles were a HUGE part of my formative musical years. I was, I will admit, a "Beatlemaniac."

When I first saw the Beatles on TV, I was amazed at all those silly girls screaming. Well, I guess it was contagious, because I became one of them. I had every single Beatles record. From Meet The Beatles to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, I knew by heart, and still know, pretty much every single song they ever wrote. How's that for being a fan? Their harmonies and melodies became a big influence on my young musical ears.
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