Like Herbie Hancock's 1995 album New Standard
features jazz treatments of pop and rock songs. The attractions of this approach - which Dutch outfit The Yuri Honing Trio has taken before, having previously covered tunes by Bjork, Greenday, The Police and Abba - are considerable: It's a way to appeal to people who wouldn't usually listen to jazz, and it injects a much needed transfusion of new blood into the jazz repertoire (let's face it, how many versions of "My Funny Valentine" do you have in your record collection?) The main disadvantage is that jazz versions of pop songs can often be asinine gimmicks - think of Wes Montgomery's Beatles covers.
For the most part, the band avoids the pitfalls associated with covering pop songs, mainly by choosing tunes that are sophisticated enough to withstand the transition to jazz and then interpretting them intelligently. Tracy Bonham's edgy "Mother Mother", for example, is the perfect vehicle for Joost Lijbaart's frantic drumming, and Blondie's "Denis" succeeds, believe it or not, due to the jaunty Latin treatment the trio gives it. The most successful of the covers is "Message in a Bottle", perhaps because the song's creators, The Police, were pop musicians with jazz backgrounds who infused some elements of the music into the original. The famous riff is taken by bassist Tony Overwater, who uses his instrument almost like a guitar at various points throughout the album, while tenor saxophonist Honing provides a beautiful, contemplative solo. In fact, the only pop cover which doesn't convince is "Do You Know Where You're Going To?": Even some particularly outlandish drum work from Lijbaart cannot obscure the fact that the sickly theme sounds as if it has escaped from the Pretty Woman soundtrack.
The album also includes three band originals, two of which are particularly good. Written by Honing, the low-key "Fritz" has a wonderfully quizzical theme, while "Mister Neil", which was composed by all three band members, is an evocative, Arabian-influenced track with an eerie bowed bass section by Overwater. The trio's decision to stick with its 'new standards' approach largely pays off this time, but, with original material this good, it would be nice to hear more of it than just three tracks' worth on the next release.
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Track Listing1.Fritz; 2.Do You Know Where You're Going To?; 3.Mother Mother; 4.The Ballad of Yasutani; 5.Killing Me Softly; 6.Denis; 7.Mister Neil; 8.Message in a Bottle; 9.Nothing Rhymes;
PersonnelYuri Honing - Tenor Saxophone; Tony Overwater - Bass; Joost Lijbaart -Drums