This year is the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of the most iconic albums in popular music history, so naturally a lot of musicians are celebrating it. Here the San Francisco String Trio try their hand at interpreting the album in a jazz context.
This group is made up of three noted string players, violinist Mads Tolling, guitarist Mimi Fox and bassist Jeff Denson. They have no trouble paring the original's complex arrangements down into nimble-footed jazz. Some pieces hew close to the Beatles' versions. Others get interesting makeovers. "Lovely Rita" is slowed down into a swoony jazz ballad, "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" becomes a tango and the spacey "Fixing A Hole" has a chugging rhythm that could have come out of Grateful Dead's "The Other One."
Tolling often takes the lead, bowing fast, dazzling runs through "When I'm Sixty-Four" and "Lucy" and swinging slowly on "With A Little Help From My Friends." Fox gives him solid rhythm support and gets several nice spots in the foreground herself such as delicate Jim Hall-like picking on "She's Leaving Home," fluid blues lines on "Sgt. Pepper" itself and an introduction to "With A Little Help" that recalls Joe Cocker's version of the song. Denson contributes a frisky bottom line and some deep, bulging solos and also brings yearning tenor vocals to "Fixing A Hole," "Getting Better" and "Day in the Life."
Some of the most inventive moments of the set come on the trio's loping bluegrass to Bach treatment of "Good Morning, Good Morning" and inevitably Pepper's climatic epic, "A Day in the Life" in which a full-bodied melancholy treatment of the main theme gives way to a forest of plucked strings and a swooping violin solo in the "Woke up, fell out of bed" section.
The San Francisco String Trio approach Sgt. Pepper a lot of respect and humor. They open up the Beatles' songs in ways that provide interesting new perspectives on these old songs. This is as fine a tribute as the old sergeant will see all year.
When I’m Sixty-Four; Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds; Fixing A Hole;
Within You Without You; With A Little Help From My Friends; Being For
The Benefit Of Mr. Kite; Lovely Rita; Betting Better; Good Morning Good
Morning; She’s Leaving Home; A Day In The Life; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely
Hearts Club Band.
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