San Francisco String Trio – May I Introduce To You – Ridgeway Records 

by | Aug 23, 2017 | Jazz CD Reviews

May I Introduce To You – San Francisco String Trio – Ridgeway Records RRCD006 61:51***:

A new spin to bring a “jazz” interpretation to iconic compositions

(Mads Tolling – violin; Mimi Fox – electric, acoustic & 12-string guitars; Jeff Denson – double bass & vocals)

Question: What does the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and jazz have in common? Answer: Nothing. Question: What does the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as interpreted by The San Francisco String Trio and jazz have in common? Answer: A lot. On the 50th Anniversary of the release of this seminal album, this Bay Area trio puts a new spin on the music to bring a “jazz” interpretation to the iconic compositions.

All members of this saucy trio come from jazz backgrounds, and currently have faculty positions at the California Jazz Conservatory. So tackling this project was not a stretch. The real trick is taking these familiar tunes with their popular musical structure and verses, and converting them into something new in a completely different genre. The experiment begins with “When I’m Sixty-Four” as violinist Tolling introduces the song with a run through of the first two verses, which then serve as the backdrop for a refreshing swing out improvisation using the structure of the melody.

“Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” takes a 5/4 tempo to set up the number with a musical gesture that establishes the crafty oblique approach to the interpretation. Guitarist Mimi Fox opens “Within You Without You” with some picking that  brings to mind George Harrison’s sitar, followed by a modal reimagining of the tune led by violinist Tolling.

When Sgt. Pepper was originally released in 1967, it quickly became the touchstone for a rock n’ roll concept album. Using the fictional alter-ego of an Edwardian marching band, the Beatles were able to experiment with electronics and other recording enhancements, that would not have been possible if they had recorded under their own brand. The SF String Trio keeps to the tried and true recording techniques with this straight ahead acoustic release. Their interpretations of the underlying music is no worse the wear for it.

“With Little Help From My Friends” is done in ballad style with Tolling leading the way with a dirge-like approach and guitarist Fox firmly in the background. Fox is in control on eclectic guitar as she expounds in dazzling  style with a solo version of “She’s Leaving Home”. The final track is the title tune “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. It has a down home feel with a bluesy undertone that works well, as each band member chips in with solid solo work.

When I’m Sixty-Four
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
Fixing A Whole
Within You Without You
With A Little Help From My Friends
Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite
Lovely Rita
Getting Better
Good Morning Good Morning
She’s Leaving Home
A Day In The Life
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

—Pierre Giroux

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