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Jazz Honors The Beatles

Michael Ricci By

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To ask how the Beatles impacted my musical expression is like asking how water impacts a fishes way of swimming. I was raised from age 5 on a steady diet of Beatles, I sang along with every tune. As a teenager, I picked out guitar parts and harmonized their songs with friends at parties, at the beach. We smoked pot and wore our copies of Rubber Soul, Revolver, The White Album, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club thin. Although perhaps the influence of Paul Simon or Joni Mitchel or even Harold Arlen may be more noticeable in my style at times, upon reflection, perhaps I should trace my sense of arrangement, my taste for eclecticism and my sense of what a good song is, my need for tension, emotion and theatricality in arrangements back to the Beatles. A song like "A Day in the Life" ...it's pop, it's classical, it's theater, it's even jazz in many ways. I love story songs and they were kings at that. I love a cacophony that resolves. They were into that.

For me, in great music, melody and rhythm rule together, and are driven by an urgent spiritual or emotional need, expression or intention. From the teeny-bopper love anthem "I love You Yeah Yeah Yeah" to the soul searching "Within You Without You" the Beatles fearlessly revealed their evolution and affected my evolution without my even knowing it. Lennon's emotional honesty and courage as a songwriter mentored me invisibly. Back then, I never even noticed his courage. I think, because I was too young to connect to him as a person. I just connected to his songs. McCartney's too. "Blackbird" is a beautiful prayer I've played for thirty years and never tired of. Recently I revisited the song "Within You Without You." I stripped it down to just African hand drums and voice. It really works that way. The words have a lot of power.

...I'd never noticed before how deep those lyrics were cause the original got layered behind so much production. For sure my taste for Indian music and for mixing genres and creating soundscapes can be traced at least in part to their adventurous approach to arrangements. ( I think my exposure to Bernstien's West Side Story also takes some credit here). Sure, lots of their songs, of course, are just simple pop tunes, but so many of are also classics that bear the test of time, and like all good poems, they change meaning each year if I revisit them. Not sure if I've answered the question really. I don't listen to them that all much any more, but one thing is clear, I simply cannot imagine my musical life without the Beatles. They were just always there.

Jana Herzen

Of all pop/rock bands in history, the Beatles created the greatest collection of outstanding melodies and innovative chord progressions. Compared to the three or four chord songs of their contemporaries, this music revolutionized pop music. Because of the sophistication of their songs, jazz and classical musicians have been able to reinterpret their material through a staggering array of arrangements and orchestrations. Few songs in pop history have stood up to the test of being successfully performed and recorded as instrumentals.

[Free MP3: Download Chuck Anderson's "Eleanor Rigby / Norweigian Wood Medley."

Chuck Anderson Advisory Board Member of The Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts

John and Paul could just write a good tune. Tight, economical, tuneful, bluesy undertones.

Here's a video of my sextet Liquid Jazz reinterpreting the lyrical Norwegian Wood.

Long live the Fab 4 (maestro Martin)!

Rick Hirsch

The Beatles were music's perfect storm. While we all watched in amazement, they defined a generation of pop music and culture. The Fab Four influenced virtually every other musician on the planet with their distinct combination of songwriting, performing, wit and charisma. Each member brought something special to the band as a whole, and George Martin was just the right individual to seize the chemistry and wrap it up in such an appealing package. Simple, yet sophisticated. Edgy, yet accessible. British, yet universal. Yes, the Beatles were music's perfect storm, and their legend continues to captivate and amaze us.

Kam Falk

I was lucky enough to play on sessions with both Paul McCartney and George Harrison. George ended up inviting me to play piano his 52nd Birthday Party at his house. He was a real gentleman, a great songwriter and it was really inspiring to meet someone so famous, and yet so "NORMAL!!!"

Terry Disley

Too much melody for any one person! Each member of the band brought their own element (all of which were tremendous by themselves) and the whole was more than the sum of the parts. Paul's sweetness, John's edge, George's wisdom, Ringo's humor. We should all be so lucky to contribute any part of the equation.

Bill Hartzell

"Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns, it calls me on and on across the universe." The Beatles unfolded a torrent of creativity in pop music which reverberates until today, beyond borders. Miles Davis also did something very similar in jazz, breaking down barriers. We are all richer with possibilities because of them.

Johnny Alegre

They were geniuses as far as I'm concerned. You can take almost any of their songs, on any album, play just the melody on any tonal instrument and you'd recognise it as a great tune. How many other people can say that?

In my opinion there's not been any other group before or since that can match their genius in pure, original, melodic line, and few as prolific. But better still, so much of their music had such strong and visual atmospheres. They often entered a world somewhere just beyond the real, sometimes way beyond, yet somehow very much relating to people's lives and daily reality.

They were so innovative in the studio pushing the boundaries of technology and multi tracking at the time. But unlike so much that has come since, the artistic and musical results outweighed the sum of the technology by a long way.

They influenced me hugely melodically as well as with the atmospheres they created in so many of their songs, that links in very much for me in what I do.

Mark Wingfield

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.
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