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Jazz Honors The Beatles

Michael Ricci By

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When the Beatles were around, a new album by a major band was a major event. People would line up outside the record store to get their copies on the first day of release. It was more than about buying entertainment. It was, hopefully, about inspiring, about making you think.

So it was when the Beatles' "White Album" came out. I was standing in line waiting for the record store to open. They had a raffle for a free album. I was 12 years old. When they called my name as a lucky winner, I was the happiest kid in the world.

What did I learn from The Beatles? Don't worry about whether your lyrics follow standard forms. If you have a 15 bar lyric, that's just the way it's meant to be. Once I understood that you could break rules like this, an entirely new way of writing songs opened up to me.

The Beatles weren't afraid to be funny. They weren't afraid to be literate. In fact, they were completely fearless and took risks that no pop musicians would take today. Be fearless. They certainly aren't the only musicians to have followed this rule, but I know from them that it's rule number one for anyone serious about making music.

Stuart Rosh

If there's a single reason why I started making music, it was the advent of the Beatles.

What I find most fascinating about the music of the Beatles is that it consistently defied labels, genres and categories. If you take a dozen Beatles songs, you would have to probably put each one in a different bin at the record store these days: rock, soft rock, pop, blues, folk, psychedelic, ambient and so on.

The Beatles were possibly the only group ever to consistently climb to the top of the charts without being 'labeled' and forced to fit in a certain category. I just wish there was even one record label today that would even consider signing a group like the Beatles, the music industry would be better off.

Alan Steward

My teenage years were spent immersed in rock music and the Beatles clearly were the most influential of their time. What started out as English rock and roll morphed into their own genre.

Sgt. Peppers and Magical Mystery Tour represented a new kind of popular music without peers.

The Lennon-McCartney collaboration was so unique and productive that not only were the songs cutting edge but the production values were revolutionary.

As a player, composer and arranger, I have the utmost respect for the Fab Four's ability to really play as a band and to craft tunes that will bear the test of time. One can hear classical, rag-time, blues, rock and jazz influences but in the final analysis this music stands by itself.

There's no question that this music has subtly infiltrated my compositions and one can only hope to bring that inventive spirit to their own creations.

Mike Clinco

The Beatles were a supernova. Over a span of less than ten years they moved music from rhythm and blues into the rock era, while paradoxically contributing mightily to the Great American Songbook. With "Yesterday," "Michele," "Something," "Julia," "Blackbird," I'll Follow the Sun," "Here, there and Everywhere," "A Little Help from My Friends," "Eleanor Rigby," "For No One," "Penny Lane," and so many other great compositions, the Beatles proved that the era of great songwriting was not over. Their music continues to provide inspiration to my creative output.

Shelly Berg

The Beatles went from "I Want to Hold Your Hand" to "Revolution Number 9" and meant it. You saw both an evolution of sound and consciousness in one phenomenon. They had a large portion of the Spirit of Truth.

Tony Bianco

Myself, I'm a fan mainly of the Beatles last albums. Timeless masterpieces: Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, White Album, Abbey Road. But at the same time I'm a fan of evolution, and like in jazz—you gotta' know the past to appreciate what comes after. Gotta' know Louis Armstrong to truly appreciate Don Cherry. To see the progress from 1963's "Please Please Me" to 1970's "Let It Be" is mind blowing to me. Similar to Miles's approach of constant change, or Coltrane way of never staying in your comfort zone. However—the Beatles did it in relatively a very short period.

I got to listen to the individual tracks of the "White Album" once. Another mind blowing experience. Without mentioning the technological adventures they went through in order to achieve what anyone can do today from home in a click of a button, it was simply shocking to realize how clear and in-tune their singing was. To nail two and three voices harmonies in one take and have it be so correct and beautiful—I don't know many who do it today like that. And even more shocking is how they did it on stage. Imagine trying to sing in tune when all you have is couple of amps on stage and thousands of people are standing in front of you screaming their lungs out... Have no idea how they did it...

Avishai Cohen - Trumpet

The Beatles were, are and will forever be THE greatest rock band of them all! They covered all the basses, and the sheer body of work recorded in such a short period of time is astounding, simply because it's quality material. This amazing band of writers/musicians and personalities literally changed the world and music forever...they continue to inspire generations with timeless tunes of every genre. Finally, let's not forget the genius of producer George Martin, and engineer Geoff Emerick who worked hand-in glove with the band to create these wonderful soundscapes. There won't be anything like The Beatles again for a looooong time...if ever. BRAVO Gentlemen!

—Clint Bahr

Growing up in Motown was a great thing as a child. I always felt I could excel in my art because there was so much wonderful music all around. If you worked hard you could have a career in music—it never felt unattainable to do what I wanted to do.

Having said that, after first hearing The Beatles, watching the rapid growth of their music was—and still is—the most incredible thing musically that I've seen. I think so many musicians of my age would agree.

Theirs was the first music I heard that really started me thinking about record production. Not only playing the music, but writing, arranging and using the studio as an instrument to construct your own musical landscape free of restrictions. They changed the world! —Earl Klugh

The Beatles, in many respects, represent the ultimate fusion of innovation and mass appeal. They managed to push the boundaries of their genre, while at the same time, touching massive numbers of people, across all social and economic lines.

We, in the jazz world, could learn a thing or two from them!

Seth Kibel

Sometimes I think it's difficult to fully appreciate how brilliant The Beatles were. Perhaps it's because they were so instrumental in creating what we now view as the standard for contemporary music. They have become part of our language. They raised the bar and completely changed the game.

Spencer Day

The Beatles were the strongest musical influence on me when I decided that I wanted to play music all my life and the was 44 years ago when I bought Beatles 65. Since I am left-handed I naturally took Paul as my role model and bought a Hofner 500/1 and that was the start of my long and winding road with the bass. I have since concentrated on universal music and double bass and I am eternally grateful to the Fab Four for their musical vibes and example.

Manny Flores Jr.

The Beatles are one of the most important things in my life. I have a band BeatleJazz and we have four CDs of Beatles music and been touring around the world and I feel very happy to be able to do that. From a musical standpoint, The Beatles' compositions are original in their use of modes—harmonically as well as melodically, but at the same time breaking the rules. I think part of it was an intuitive musical sense rather than a formal approach. As we all know they never studied formal music theory but what they came up with is something I've studied and continue to do so. In a way it's easier to break rules if you don't know all of them, but that is too easy an explanation.

There is something special about their voices blending that are just sheer magic. John had a profound use of words and a great natural harmonic gift and Paul would take some of his few note melodies and come up with a harmony melody that many times complemented the melody with an amazing counterpoint. The Lennon/McCartney partnership is one of the main ingredients for there wonderful music. George and Ringo were great also. And then there was their style, the way they looked, and talked, their hair, clothes, wit etc. Maybe for being a youngster when I first got into them it represented youth itself. It was something that was different than what my parents were used to. That in itself was appealing for me and my generation. The words spoke to us in a way that was not heard before from Cole Porter, George Gershwin, etc. But really, none of that is the main reason. For me the main thing is the feeling I get when I get when I hear them. It actually goes beyond anything I've mentioned. It can't really be put into words. All I know is it makes me be happy to be alive.

David Kikoski

At the age of 8, between Peggy Lee's Things Are Swingin' and Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Rodgers and Hart Songbook I discovered my mother's copy of Meet the Beatles. ...and we'll go on meeting 'til we die, Paul, George, Ringo, John, and I.

Kat Edmonson

The Beatles were for me the first introduction to being obsessive about music as a listener (and later as a musician, and I mean this in the best of ways. I spent many hours from around grade 4 and on listening to the amazing breadth of their work. Started from the "White Album," and made my way slowly through the catalog. Thanks for the great music!!

Oren Neiman

The Beatles always impressed me with the diversity of their songwriting. They're probably the first group I acknowledged as experimenting with and ultimately shaping several styles of popular music. More than any particular song I've always admired The Beatles for the confidence they had in their own curiosity.

Sachal Vasandani

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