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Jazz Honors The Beatles

Michael Ricci By

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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


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