One of my favorite jazz takes on the Beatles comes courtesy of a Bay Area talent, vocalist Ann Dyer. Joined by the No Good Time Fairies – Jeff Buenz (guitar), John Shifflett (bass), Jaon Lewis (drums, percussion), Peter Apfelbaum (tenor sax), Rob Burger (accordion) and Carla Kihlstedt (violin) – Dyer recorded in 1999 “Revolver: A New Spin.”
The album is by no means a straightforward jazz homage to John, Paul, George and Ringo. Instead, Dyer and the Fairies rethink and recalibrate the source material, infusing the Beatles’ British pop with jazzy touches, to be sure, but also distinct Eastern influences, including a Hindustani vocal style. The cores of the songs remain, but the rhythms stop you in your tracks and Dyer’s delivery keeps you hanging on every familiar lyric. “A New Spin” reveals the kind of new thinking that, well, the Beatles represented in the mid-‘60s.
Dyer and the Fairies recorded three albums – there’s also a self-titled debut (1995) and “When I Close My Eyes” (2003) – and, while none are still being manufactured, all three are available online (and for next to nothing, at that). Dyer herself has taken a break from jazz to focus on yoga. She had this to say to me a few years back about the Beatles and their enduring appeal, to jazz artists and otherwise.
Question: What is your take on the Beatles’ legacy – as songwriters, performers, cultural forces? Is all this justified?
Dyer: Absolutely, it's justified! Recently, I began watching the “Beatles Anthology” DVDs and have been reminded, once again, of just what an amazing phenomenon they were. To state the obvious, as songwriters they not only possessed that elusive magic that produced one hit after another, but the range of expression they turned out in their short time together is almost unfathomable – I can't think of a parallel, really. They each had a strong, individual sound and immense charisma – whether it was in their comparatively fresh-faced, enthusiastic youth or as the total bad-asses they had become by the time they were jamming on the roof of the Apple building.
I mean, I could write a thesis – and I'm sure many people have – on their impact as a cultural force. And, again, all in a relatively short time.
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