All You Need Is Love (And Peace): The Beatles In Jazz

The Beatles perform at the BBC in 1966. i i

Ringo Starr's gold-plated snare drum will be on display at New York's Metropolitan Museum until December. Express Newspapers/Hulton Archive hide caption

itoggle caption Express Newspapers/Hulton Archive
The Beatles perform at the BBC in 1966.

Ringo Starr's gold-plated snare drum will be on display at New York's Metropolitan Museum until December.

Express Newspapers/Hulton Archive

"What a drag it is getting old" might be a sentiment appropriate for Mick Jagger's birthday, but Beatles drummer Ringo Starr celebrated his 70th with boyish enthusiasm earlier this month. Starr asked fans around the world to join him at noon by saying the words "peace and love," the only gift he wanted, and he was honored by New York's Metropolitan Museum, where his gold-plated snare drum — a present from the Ludwig Drum Company during the Beatles' famed 1964 U.S. tour — will be on display until December.

The Beatles have lived as long as many composers of the so-called American popular song (Gershwin, Porter, Loesser). And the band's works, now tried and true, have also found a place in the jazz repertoire, even if arrangements of Ringo's "Octopus's Garden" remain scarce (check George Benson's The Other Side of Abbey Road for the only one we know).

Last September, Take Five presented listeners with a Beatles list, using it to trace how jazz musicians have absorbed popular music that post-dates the British Invasion. This time, for the drummer, is just for kicks. Happy Birthday, Ringo! Peace and love.

All You Need Is Love (And Peace): The Beatles In Jazz

Come Together

Charlie Hunter

  • Album: Come Together: Guitar Tribute to the Beatles, Vol. 2
  • Song: Drive My Car

Playing a custom Novax eight-string, Charlie Hunter manages to handle all the usual guitar duties, while grabbing bass notes and keeping time as well as any drummer with textured strumming and slapping. So much for a little help from his friends. Hunter's car might just be a motorcycle. And, no, you can't drive it.

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Song
Drive My Car
Album
Come Together: Guitar Tribute to the Beatles, Vol. 2
Artist
Various Artists
Label
Nagel-Heyer
Released
1995

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Cover for Largo

Brad Mehldau

  • Album: Largo
  • Song: Dear Prudence

On the last Take Five Beatles list, we failed to include pianist Brad Mehldau, a contemporary pioneer when it comes to bridging the gap between jazz and pop music. You noticed; point taken. When Mehldau hasn't been too busy playing songs by Radiohead, he's performed a number of Beatles gems, including "Blackbird," "She's Leaving Home" and a solo version of "Martha, My Dear" fantastical enough to warrant comparison to legendary pianist Art Tatum. Here, in honor of Ringo Starr, we opted for something more straightforward with a little backbeat.

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Song
Dear Prudence
Album
Largo
Artist
Brad Mehldau
Label
Warner Bros.

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Cover for Out Louder

Medeski/Scofield/Martin/Wood

  • Album: Out Louder
  • Song: Julia

Medeski, Martin and Wood represent the happy place where jazz gets made into jam. Guitarist John Scofield, a masterful improviser who knows how to rock out, makes for their perfect partner in crime. While the trio-plus-one spends most of Out Louder pushing the groove envelope, "Julia" finds them at their mellow best. It's more pulsing texture than melody, with a haunting edge. Lovely, lovely melancholy.

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Song
Julia
Album
Out Louder
Artist
Medeski/Scofield/Martin/Wood
Label
Indirecto

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Underground

Chris Potter

  • Album: Underground
  • Song: Yesterday

"Yesterday" is one of the most frequently covered Beatles songs, at least where jazz musicians are concerned, and this might be its most gorgeous arrangement. Ballads — wistfully nostalgic and otherwise — don't come with the same expectations for improvisational flights as up-tempo tunes, but they depend on a soloist gracefully embellishing the melody nonetheless. Here, saxophonist Chris Potter keeps the tune simple and instead expands the harmony. When he gets to the bridge ("Why she had to go..."), it just blossoms.

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Song
Yesterday
Album
Underground
Artist
Chris Potter
Label
Sunnyside
Released
2006

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Spontaneous Inventions

Bobby McFerrin

  • Album: Spontaneous Inventions
  • Song: From Me to You

At least one person is bound to write in to say something like, "Bobby McFerrin isn't a jazz musician." It might be poor manners on my part, but I'm preemptively going to say that that's complete nonsense. McFerrin worked for years with Jon Hendricks, the Godfather of Vocalese, and he's held his own in duos with Chick Corea (in fact, here's a full concert). He can do anything.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
From Me to You
Album
Spontaneous Inventions
Artist
Bobby McFerrin
Label
Atlantic
Released
1986

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