(Zebra Acoustic – 2000)
by John Barrett

After the success of Jazz Is Dead, it isn’t surprising that other bands would get the jazz treatment. The Beatles are an excellent choice: their tunes have many chords, and structures you don’t often find in rock music. The band adapts its style to each tune: “Junk”, from the McCartney album, gets a Bill Evans treatment, while “Come Together” is closer to Ramsey Lewis. The drums have a mild Latin kick, and Charlie Fambrough bends the bass like anything. “Love”, one of John Lennon’s best melodies, is told in a string of sweet chords, dipped in a pool of echo. Dave Kikoski takes a nice delicate glide, helped by the brushes of Brian Melvin. While this is tasty, “If I Fell” is a romantic feast: Dave is lush, with Fambrough in counterpoint. You get foggy drums, a hint of Guaraldi, and a melody to be cherished, in whatever style it’s played. Fab, I think you’d call it.

“Eleanor Rigby” is a leaf in a windstorm, tossed by the thunderous drums. Kikoski starts with a New Age touch, then strikes hard with restless energy. “I Am the Walrus” is almost sedate, with a long lush fadeout – the tune ends in mid-note, another Beatles innovation. “Within You Without You” sounds properly Eastern: Kikoski drones on the lower keys, while Melvin plays toms with his hands – he sounds like a tabla. (The piece is dedicated to Alla Rakha, the Indian percussionist who taught Melvin.) A big, gospelly blues embraces “Mother Nature’s Son”, where whispering drums kiss a bold piano. The reading is playful, as befits the work of McCartney; you smile as the mood sinks in. Some things sound forced, and I would have liked more uptempo stuff, but on the whole it works well – real jazz from unexpected material. The Beatles wrote a lot of good tunes, and I bet we’ll get a second album real soon.