By Sean J. O’Connell | Published March 2019
The Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is many things: psychedelic trendsetter, orchestral pop, hurdy-gurdy soul. It’s an eclectic mish-mash. But apart from eight measures of barrelhouse piano on “Lovely Rita,” the album doesn’t have much use for jazz.
A Day In The Life: Impressions Of Pepper eschews preciousness for sonic freedom as the psychedelic standard-bearer is worked over by 12 jazz performers who spike the music with their own takes on the ’60s classic.
Drummer Antonio Sánchez opens the album with a pummeling approach to the title track. Heavy rock chords and a frantic hi-hat push hard before Mary Halvorson’s unmistakable guitar refracts “With A Little Help From My Friends,” and Makaya McCraven’s “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” relies on an unhurried vibraphone as it skitters deeper into the high-anxiety affair. Pianists Cameron Graves and Sullivan Fortner are most direct in their takes: The former transforms “Fixing A Hole” into a menacing tango, while Fortner’s solo performance is a bit more delicate, grafting Paul McCartney’s twee ditty about aging onto a playful backdrop for his impressive chops.
The source material here is treated with respect (but not too much) and given careful consideration by some of the most innovative instrumentalists working today. Collectively, this an entertaining grip of songs we thought we all knew, but perhaps don’t.
A Day In the Life: Impressions Of Pepper: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; With A Little Help From My Friends; Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds; Getting Better; Fixing A Hole; She’s Leaving Home; Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!; Within You Without You; When I’m Sixty Four; Lovely Rita; Good Morning Good Morning; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise); A Day In The Life. (58:34)
Personnel: Antonio Sánchez; Mary Halvorson; Makaya McCraven; Wildflower; Cameron Graves; Keyon Harrold: Brandee Younger; Onyx Collective; Sullivan Fortner; Miles Mosley; Shabaka & The Ancestors; The Ju Ju Exchange.