A fun tribute for Fab Four fans.
Loren Daniels – Ticket to Ride – [TrackList follows] – LDJazz, 54:26 [10/1/22] ****:
(Loren Daniels – lead and background vocals, piano, melodica, Fender-Rhodes electric piano, Hammond B3 organ, vocal/body percussion; Belden Bullock – acoustic bass; Jonathan ‘JP’ Peretz – drums; Reggie Pittman – flugelhorn, track 9))
Which modern pop artists/songwriters are covered most often by jazz musicians? The Beatles top the list alongside Burt Bacharach, Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan. So, it isn’t a surprise keyboardist and vocalist Loren Daniels focused on the Paul McCartney-John Lennon song catalog for his latest album, the 54-minute, ten-track tribute, Ticket to Ride. Loren has been a Beatles fan for decades. He admits “the Beatles’ music has always inspired me and was one of the first things that moved me towards a life in music.” Daniels’ music career includes co-leading the New York-based The Reggie Pittman/Loren Daniels Quartet; he has worked with Milt Jackson, Rufus Reid, and others; he has penned compositions for contemporary dance choreography and theatrical productions; and he was a music educator for more than three decades.
Daniels initially conceived this project as a vocal jazz piano trio release. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Daniels turned the upheaval and interruption into a mission rethink and thus added more to his Beatles production template, including melodica; multi-tracked background vocal harmonies; Hamond B3; Reggie Pittman’s guest flugelhorn; and other flourishes which deepen the arrangements.
Throughout, Daniels balances familiar melodies with attendant as well as sometimes unexpected arrangements. The four-minute opener, “Drive My Car,” has a soulful currency highlighted by some tasty B3 flavoring. Daniels’ midpoint acoustic piano solo brings to mind fellow pianist/vocalist Les McCann (who was known to perform the Beatles from time to time); while acoustic bassist Belden Bullock (credits include Roy Haynes, Andrew Hill, and Ahmad Jamal) also contributes a nice solo spotlight. The similar transportation-tilted tune, “Ticket to Ride” has a modal-type arrangement where Daniels uses George Harrison’s opening guitar lick and stretches it out on a 6-over-4 groove, and according to Daniels’ CD liner notes, “it’s a mash-up of influences: the original, McCoy Tyner-esque quartal harmony and Take 6-like vocal backgrounds.” Daniels’ Fender-Rhodes electric piano and Jonathan Peretz’s warm drumming (his experience includes Maynard Ferguson, Freddie Hubbard, and Blood, Sweat and Tears) offer a informally funky, lighthearted treatment to the somewhat obscure “I’m Only Sleeping,” an ode to taking it easy.
Daniels’ describes his arrangement of “With a Little Help from My Friends” as “Aaron Copland meets Miles Davis meets Joe Cocker meets the Beatles.” Daniels’ evokes a bit of Copland in his acoustic piano improvisations, whereas Cocker’s significance —he notably did this tune in 1969—is less noticeable. Daniels’ translations of Beatles’ ballads have beautiful melodic and emotional impressions. Daniels slips melodica into “For No One,” where a slow and steady tempo provides space for both Bullock and Peretz to communicate with a scintillating rhythmic connection. Daniels’ utilizes a bossa nova dreaminess to “I’ll Follow the Sun,” which melds percussive vocal layering with electric piano and Pittman’s salient flugelhorn involvement. It would have been great to hear more from Pittman on some other songs. On the other hand, Daniels’ rendering of the typically gentle “Blackbird” escalates the tempo with an Afro-Cuban and Brazilian 6/8 pulse which drives this number into a mid-swinging vehicle of improvisation and enjoyment. Daniels’ concludes with a soulful and shuffling rendition of “You Can’t Do That,” where Daniels’ sounds like a milder Mose Allison and shifts from acoustic piano to B3. It’s a fine way to end a consistently entertaining Beatles tribute.
Drive My Car
Ticket to Ride
I’m Only Sleeping
With a Little Help from My Friends
For No One
Eight Days a Week
I’ll Follow the Sun
You Can’t Do That
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