Friday, April 6, 2012

Jazz Cover of Beatles

I have to admit, covering Beatles tunes ain't never easy. Some of their tunes SHOULD sound like how they did it, period. Some of their songs are easier to be covered than others, usually they are lyrical and more conventional in terms of harmony, melody contour, and instrumentation. But Jazz musicians just wouldn't give up trying, and that's the spirit of jazz, ain't it? There is even a few Beatles jazz albums out there, most notably is a compilation done by GRP: The Beatles Tribute, An All Stars Celebration.

There are also quite a numbers of Beatles covers that I've enjoyed, some are pure magic, some are quite pleasant, some are passable.

And I Love Her (Diana Krall) From above mentioned album:

Stylish, Elegant, Lyrical. I've came to know this particular version many years ago, and still enjoy it tremendously. Midnight Jazz kind of feeling, smoky and sensuous.

Brad Mehldau has got to be the Messiah for Jazz Piano Trio, when he first came out in the late 90s. He attracted a lot of attention updating the repertoire of jazz by including many tunes that he heard while growing up, outside of the mainstream jazz repertory. He covered tunes by Beatles, Radiohead, Oasis, Verve, Nick Drake, Paul Simon, Sound Garden, Pink Floyd, Massive Attack, just to name a few. Maybe it didn't really started from him (Herbie Hancock did a whole album of 'New Standards' in 1996, covering Rock tunes. Definitely worth collecting) but from him onward we have seen the Piano Trio format came back to the forefront of mainstream Jazz scene. There are also a trend of covering unconventional tunes by many jazz bands.

Here are several versions of Brad Mehldau's treatment of Beatles tunes that I like a lot:

Blackbird (Brad Mehldau) From The Art of the Trio Vol I:

I love this particular song from Beatles's White album, always find it to be heart warming, and the unusual harmony color, even that little wing fluttering sound in the middle of the song could make my heart leap. Paul's voice is also so gentle and lovely. Love this one! Here is some interesting fact about the song. The harmony is inspired by Bach! Damn it, this whole musical legacy is just so damn interesting, proud to be a little part of this whole legacy! (

Another tune from the White Album. This is my favorite albums from the Beatles legacy, which I have spent my teens listening to no less than a hundred times in the span of half year's time. At first, Martha My Dear just feel like a weird song, the way the melody goes and the harmony, seems to be at odd. The brass arrangement was really quite out for my ears at the time as well. But I came to embrace every songs in the album and appreciate every notes in there. When I first heard this version from Brad in 2007, it was another rude awakening as well. What the hell! What is going on here!!! But with my friend's insistence, I listened to it a few more times, Wow! The whole Left Hand Right Hand coordination, the contrapuntal playing, the unusual modulations, the discords and resolutions, damn! This is the shit!

You just got to give it to him, that he redefined Jazz piano, set another high goal for everyone after him to attain. He definitely change the sound of jazz, when most people at the time thoughts jazz is dead (Jazz had been announced dead too many times over the years. Some people claimed it is not dead, just smelled funny. But from a musician's perspective and from listening to what is available out there, Jazz can't be more alive and kicking, and Thriving!)

Martha My Dear (Brad Mehldau) From Day is Done. 

She's Leaving Home (Brad Mehldau) The Day is Done:

Another one from The Day is Done album. She's Leaving Home is from the legendary Sgt. Pepper and the Lonely Hearts Club Band, written by the Lennon and McCartney team.
A story telling song with great melody (

Brad Mehldau's arrangement isn't far from the original, and sticks true to the traditional Head Solo Head format. Of course his signature left hand right hand conversation is apparent here, with much inner movement of harmony changes. There is a rhythm tacet section where he rips through an ostinasto then back to the head. Amazing shit.

Mother Nature's Son (Brad Mehldau)

This particular version of Mother Nature's Son by Mehldau is played solo in a concert in Argentina. I know of two other versions recorded in his album Largo and also a duet album with Joel Frahm.

There are no youtube uploads for these two versions, thus what I posted here is from the Argentina concert. Amazing as usual. Check out that reaction from the audience. Man, I just wish we could see something like that in KL. But with the gradually idiotic people up there, slim chance. Let's kick them out and get our country moving ahead instead of backwards.

Dear Prudence (Brad Mehldau) Largo:

From White Album again, psychedelic feel kind of song. ]

She's Leaving Home (McCoy Tyner): All Star Tribute

One of my favorite pianists, Mr. McCoy Tyner's version of She's Leaving Home is pleasant and straight forward, with his signature voicings and lines. (Worth check out another tribute album he did, all Burt Bacharach tunes for Impulse! Amazing stuff)

Something (Sarah Vaughan): Sarah Sings the Beatles

Brazilian groove of Something! Written by the great George Harrison (every time he writes, it came out great. But he didn't write that many when he was with Beatles)
Check out this version, the nice whistling counter line, and sexy Portuguese lyrics at the verse.

Can't Buy Me Love (Count Basie): Basie's Beatle Bag

The typical Basie's band explosion, swing you off your chair, the big contrasting sections. The organ a bit dated, but once in awhile, it sounded cool. Damn. Basie is cool.

With A Little Help From My Friend (Count Basie): Basie on the Beatles

A normal trio arrangement, nothing too fancy here. He is usually so under play, but here, he swing hard and played so much. The more I listen, the more it sounded like Oscar Peterson playing, anyone point it out?

The Long and Winding Road (George Benson): All Stars Tribute

Nice string arrangement here. Smooth and slick.

Norwegian Wood (Buddy Rich): Big Swing Face

There are actually so many more versions out there, but due to lack of youtube uploads, I feel reluctant to share the information here.
Oh by the way, The movie: Across the Universe has to be one of the best movies that was inspired by music of Beatles. Check it out. I love some of the re arrangements of songs in the movie.

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