In case you were wondering what the state of jazz in Canada is like at the moment, here are two new albums which show it is both healthy and diverse.
Oh joy! A Lennon tribute album that doesn’t include some tedious reworking of that over-rated bit of trite called Imagine.
Instead what we have is a reminder of just what a bunch of brilliant songs Lennon wrote, especially when he was part of that four-piece band in the ‘60s.
Guitarist Occhipinti and his fellow Canadians – a light, tight band with trumpet and a selection of singers – draw attention through sensitive playing and interesting arrangements, and really bring out fresh nuances in those tunes and lyrics.
I Am The Walrus opens the album and is a snaky groover, Instant Karma! has a bright poppy swing, while even Working Class Hero, sung by Elizabeth Shepherd and so distanced from the male-voiced original, seems to work. It could be be because Occhipinti gives it an African percussion and Fender Rhodes plumped cushion. Girl, too, gets a fresh rhythmic twist.
The real stand-outs are those gorgeous melodies from the Beatles era: I’m Only Sleeping, is given a jazz waltz rhythm on the verse, and Across The Universe has suitably spacey guitar, all sustain, chorus and harmonics.
Eighty-something vibes player Peter Appleyard called ten female vocalists into the studio, set up his tight-swinging little combo behind them and hit the record button.
The singers, all unkown to me bar Elizabeth Shepherd from the Occhipinti band (see above), bring a pretty mainstream, mature, style to the proceedings (the album title is not misplaced), but they all have subtle distinctions.
Jill Barber, who clearly has some Earth Kitt records in her collection, tackles Love For Sale against a funky groove, while Shepherd is more coolly modern on It’s Only A Paper Moon. Jackie Richardson goes low and alluring on Georgia.
Either a nice ready-made cocktail collection for the lonely bloke, or a useful taster album for jazz vocal fans to seek out in more detail.