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Beatle Jazz: Another Bite of the Apple

Jason Thompson

Beatle Jazz

Another Bite of the Apple

Label: Zebra Acoustic
US Release Date: 2001-10-16

Throughout the past four decades, the Beatles' vast catalogue has been mined by various groups seeking to put their own stamp on the Fab Four's music. George Martin himself was one of the early proponents of covering the Beatles, both on the b-side to the original American LP version of A Hard Day's Night on United Artists and with his own album George Martin Salutes the Beatle Girls that found him doing orchestral takes on John, Paul, George, and Ringo's music. Ever since then, there have been countless cover versions of Beatle tunes, orchestral takes on the band's music, and novelty items from the likes of the Chipmunks. Needless to say, very few of these products offered up the same amount of excitement (if any) that an actual Beatles album delivered.

Still, various groups of all shapes and sizes continue to mine the band's songbook in hopes of gaining an audience or pushing their own product. One of the latest perpetrators of such an endeavor is the jazz trio known as Beatle Jazz. Comprised of pianist Dave Kikoski, drummer Brian Melvin, and bassist Charles Fambrough, the trio has recently put together its second collection of Beatle interpretations, Another Bite of the Apple. It is important to stress the word interpretations here as that's exactly what these guys are doing: taking the classics and goofing off with them with their own jazz workouts. Once again, there is little to be excited about here.

It's not that the music is bad, per se, it's just that it is exactly what Beatle fans such as myself have come to expect from groups like this. That is, an idea interesting in theory, but hardly worth the time when it comes down to listening to the final product. Besides, who ever said the Beatles' music lent itself well to being reconstructed in a jazz format? Muzak, perhaps (although sickly). Jazz, not really at all. But that doesn't stop these guys from trying. Apparently their first album A Bite of the Apple fared well enough with the cool crowd to warrant Another Bite.

The disc opens with the Lennon/McCartney classic "I'll Follow the Sun", originally heard on the Beatles for Sale LP. Here, Kikoski and pals play along briefly with the main melody and theme of the tune before scattering off and vamping on each of their instruments in generic jazzy directions for four minutes. Not an impressive opener by a long shot, but then nothing really suggests that the following track "Here, There, And Everywhere" will fare any better. In fact it sounds like John Costa (musical director of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood) meets Liberace. Save it for the elevators; the kids aren't buyin' it, man.

From there, Beatle Jazz takes it upon themselves to dismantle "Let It Be" and turn it into a kind of happy-go-lucky/"On the Sunny Side of the Street" groove. Yeah, I remember all the happy, finger-snappin' times I had while listening to McCartney's ode to his mother. Damn, but it's jazzy! And who couldn't get excited over the trio's take on Harrison's "Give Me Love"? Did that track even need to be turned into a jazz-lite routine? And how many cocktail combos have already covered "Michelle" with no success whatsoever? Well here's another one to add to that list.

Even stranger is the inclusion of "Magical Mystery Tour". Basically what you get here is the trio playing the original ending chorus melody and fade out material of the original track and then destroying it by doing their limp jazzbo routine all over it again. And wasn't it cool of Kikoski to slip in a little phrasing from "Norwegian Wood"? I'm sure he thought it was. Oh well, it at least gives the listener something familiar to hear for about two seconds before boring him again with the free-for-all tickling of the ivories.

After that, it just gets even more banal. From the loungey "It Won't Be Long" to the unnecessary "Blue Jay Way" and the not-at-all-like-it closer "Tomorrow Never Knows", Another Bite of the Apple is another insult to Beatle aficionados. This seems to be Beatle music that would be popular either to those who didn't originally find anything wonderful in the band's own music or who just don't want to be bothered with discovering it in the first place. If anything, it could hopefully be used as a gateway album into the band's classic albums, but I would think that even George Martin's or the Chipmunks' Beatle albums would be better places to start than here. Not even Lennon could be bothered to turn in his grave over this one. It doesn't even warrant that much attention.

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