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Matthew Ruddick

Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Friday, 15 March 2019 17:21

Various Artists - A Day in the Life, Impressions of Pepper

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Lively and lithe reworks of Sgt Peppers.

A hidden but in plain sight foible of music in 2019 is that there is more old music than new music. A bracing truism for any newbie artist or act. The listener is only ten feet away from an anniversary of a classic or a deemed classic album. 2017 was the golden jubilee of the colossus that is and was Sergeant Pepper Lonely Heart Club Band. It’s foolish to try and nutshell its shift shaping influence but I am feeling foolish.  It’s data alone has plenty of gasp from the past shock value.  27 weeks at number one in the UK album chart, 15 weeks at number 1 in the US album chart and so far 32 million copies sold. Five decades later Peppers is still a landmark that cannot be glossed over or ignored, whether you are Beatles fan or not.

The original album itself has now got the big box treatment but here Impulse! have compiled a stellar roll call of players including Shabaka Hutchings from the UK, Miles Mosley from the LA’s West Coast Get Down, Onyx Collective from NYC and Makaya McCraven from Chicago, to record a contemporary jazz take on Peppers. 

Straight out of the gate drummer Antonio Sanchez serves a psychedelic marching band rendition of the title track. Fuzzy in good way with effective overdubbed beats.

The running order follows the original album so its straight into With A Little Help From my Friends by guitarist Mary Halvorson. Halvorson has a left-field style but her dissonant chords are well balanced with balmy treatment of the melody, The quality threshold is underlined further with Makaya McCraven’s  reading of Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds.  A spacey, vibraphone-led version, aided by plucky melodic bass, the psych-pop melody is lucky dipped in piano and guitar shapes.  It’s a perfect blend of an old tune and a  new treatment.  Spiritual jazzers Wild Flower deliver a version of Getting Better with strong Ethiopique flavour. Sheets of saxophone wrapped in meditative sandstorm of drifting harmonies.  

Listen to With A Little Help here:

Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite gets a sparky harpedelic  make over by Brandee Younger. The ashram balm of the flute casts a neo-classical spell that its easy to fall under. Within You Without You by Onyx Collective is a tipsy take on the tune with clattering percussion and shards of synth’. It’s the sound a freak out band behaving itself. Good Morning Good Morning’s theme is grasped in a  folkish way by Shabaka & the Ancestors but the restless drumming keep everything sky bound. The heavy burden of covering A Day In the Life is left to The Ju Ju Exchange. Wearing neo-soul clothes with kiss and tell harmony it’s an imaginative,  short and easy on the ear version.

Listen to A Day In The Life here:

Impressions of Pepper is a fitting tribute to the ductile quality of The Beatles song writing. Anyway you twist or turn them those tunes they are unbreakable. It’s also a compact primer for beckoning jazz with Makaya McCraven and Mary Halvorson leaving a long lasting impression.

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