John Lennon – a Jazz Reinterpretation

I’m usually not a big fan nor collector of Beatles cover versions. But I must admit that when I first saw this CD cover I was intrigued:

It’s a Lennon reinterpretation that is very worthy of further investigation. Jazz guitarist Bill Frisell is one of the world’s great musicians – as the small sticker on the front of this CD proclaims:

While he’s been around a long time I only became aware of Bill Frisell relatively recently when Elvis Costello teamed up with veteran composer and arranger Burt Bacharach in 1998 to produce an album of new songs called “Painted From Memory”. Both Costello and Bacharach are favorites and this album is great. The interesting thing about their project is that they gave all their new songs to guitarist Bill Frisell very early in the process to create his own jazz versions of their new work. As a result he released his album “The Sweetest Punch” almost simultaneously with their “Painted From Memory” disc. Quite unusual in the music business. I got both “Painted From Memory” and “The Sweetest Punch” back then and have enjoyed them immensely since…..hence my interest in the work of one Bill Frisell.

Then, late in 2011 came this record – “All We Are Saying” – Frisell plays Lennon. Naturally I was interested to hear how it sounded – and was lucky enough to be given it as a Christmas present from my son:

As you can see from the rear cover song-list, Frisell does a wide range of Lennon compositions from the Beatles days (both early and late), through to the Plastic Ono Band, Lennon’s early solo work, and right up to songs from the final John Lennon/Yoko Ono album “Double Fantasy”.

The cover art is also interesting. Inside the gatefold digipac it’s revealed that the project has the blessing of Yoko Ono and the Lennon Estate because they have officially licensed the cover art which is a John Lennon original drawing.

Here’s the detail from the image above:

So – it all looks and feels very original. These are all songs I know well, and the interpretations that Frisell and his band deliver are fresh takes on familiar material. As I say, Beatles cover versions are not my thing – but this album delivers on many levels, not the least being that it comes from an artist who respects and loves the originals.