The London Jazz Four Take A New Look At the Beatles (HI-FI 582 005) (1967)

“I’m always proud and pleased when people do my songs. It gives me pleasure that they even attempt them, because a lot of my songs aren’t that do-able. I go to restaurants and the groups always play ‘Yesterday.’ I even signed a guy’s violin in Spain after he played us ‘Yesterday.’ He couldn’t understand that I didn’t write the song. But I guess he couldn’t have gone from table to table playing ‘I Am the Walrus.'” – John Lennon.

Well, the London Jazz Four didn’t do “I Am the Walrus”, I’m not sure the song had even been recorded at this point, but seven of the songs here are Lennon’s, which is, of course, not the way with these things; no, it is usually McCartney, whose tunes are more ingratiating, who reaps the cover version bonanza. But this isn’t a typical Beatles covers album. Not a Toreo Band-style rip-off, but a subtle, serious (even as it is playful) and mostly successful transposition of the Lennon and McCartney songbook into the jazz idiom, recorded when the Beatles were still a functioning unit. And by “jazz idiom” I mean taking melodic themes and playing around with them in swinging fashion, sometimes to the point of unrecognisability, rather than a simple easy-listening or merely “jazzy” recast of the familiar arrangement.

Piano and Vibes-led, there are many highlights: a hard-charging, Afro-rhythm “Things We Said Today”; “I Feel Fine”, which twists the guitar hook into the oddest harpsichord vamp; and both “Rain” and “From Me To You”, re-imagined as glistening ballads. Only “Yellow Submarine” sinks to the level of hokum anticipated by the City Gents vs. Cartoon Mop Tops sleeve. A pound this morning at the Wincheap bootfair.

Published in: on July 22, 2012 at 8:52 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. as a collector of beatles covers (but only the tunes i like, which pretty much rules out anything post-“rubber soul”!), i concur that this collection features some excellent fab-four jazz-styled interpretations (i ripped my copies from a CD release – boo, hiss!)

    for those interested in this kind of thing, there is another similar more-recent recording by the modern gustin trio that in my opinion is equally good… and a couple of CD’s are currently cheaply available on amazon:

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