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Jazz Honors The Beatles

Michael Ricci By

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Growing up in that same era, I couldn't help but be influenced by their records you would hear them all day on the radio and couldn't get them out of your head... they were some of the first pop records that I took seriously. Besides the great songs and production, they played and sang so well together—it was really a group with a symbiotic affinity much like Coltrane's classic quartet—there were no weak links.

In 1966 I took my first trip to Europe and Asia with the Indiana University Big Band. We landed at Heathrow for a day of sightseeing and lo and behold, from a second floor balcony at the airport, we looked down and there they were (!) just milling around the airport together—we couldn't believe our luck in seeing them—they were dressed super mod and each had a walking stick... just too cool. On that same trip, some of us spent a day at the beach in Beirut after taking LSD (my one and only "trip!"). I went back to the hotel room and eventually listened to "You Won't See Me" from Rubber Soul over and over and over...

Later on in 1974, Mike and I toured Japan with the Plastic Ono Super-Band featuring Yoko Ono, a tour "sponsored" by John during the time he was having the affair with his secretary May Pang (who later worked for the Brecker Bros office), and that was as close as we got to playing with The Beatles, but that tour was a lot of fun.

Also, Steve Gadd, Rick Marotta, Don Grolnick and Steve Khan were in the band. Mike and I both did some recording with John right before he was shot, and played on a Paul McCartney session. Also when I was doing some ghostwriting for Arif Mardin in the '70s, Arif handed me a bunch of tracks on tape with lead sheets that needed horns. I asked him who might be singing on the tracks because that might help me in the writing of the charts. He said rather brusquely "Oh, I don't know, maybe Aretha, maybe Carly or Bette, or maybe Ringo (!), we'll figure that out later!... "I said "thanks for narrowing it down!" :) ...so maybe there's a Ringo track out there with some Brecker Bros. horns on it!

Randy Brecker

As a child I fell in love with the later compositions of the Beatles, especially "Eleanor Rigby" and "Yesterday," both written by Paul McCartney. But of course the "bassist" would be the most melodic one in the band. ;-)

Rodney Whitaker

The music of The Beatles has had an impact on my writing and my appreciation of their music. I must admit that for many years I never considered myself a fan of The Beatles and I actually became more interested in exploring and studying their music as I heard jazz musicians record and perform some of their compositions like "Eleanor Rigby," "Can't Buy Me Love" and "Blackbird." The Beatles have written many songs with simple melodies and pretty harmonic movements and I enjoy the simplicity of their music. Throughout the history of music, the songs with longevity are quite often the ones with simple melodies and this is why I like the music of The Beatles.

Carl Allen

As a huge fan of The Beatles, sometimes it's hard to quantify how they have impacted my own music, because I think their influence runs pretty deep on me. While I'm not sure my ability to win a trivia contest about Revolver-era recording techniques has much influence on my jazz piano playing, I think I've learned two very important musical lessons from them that I can apply to my own music. The first is a reminder of just how vital and important a truly great, memorable melody is (especially when it allows me to cover the song and screw up all the harmonies!). And the second lesson is that it's always worth it to truly be what you want to be musically, to not get constrained by genre or other people's expectations; to have the courage to go ahead and record "Tomorrow Never Knows" or "Strawberry Fields Forever" or what not, even when it departs from the formula that initially brought you success.

Randy Ingram

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