The week began with a call from the intern who had just finished (literally) her undergraduate college class career. She was unwinding (quite apparently) at a Wilco concert on the Duke campus. She held up her phone just in time for me to hear the bouncy and irresistible "Heavy Metal Drummer." Even over the tinny sound of a cell phone the song sounded good. And I was more glad than you would ever know that she shared.
The next day I inadvertently went to work in a holey shirt. My boss thankfully pointed that out to me before anyone else could see. Some day I may show up to work in a holy shirt. I think I may have it in me. Of course that's when I read a quote in the St. Paul Pioneer Press from the world's biggest Wild fan, the haven't heard from in a long time, Mary Meek. Mary wasn't so meek.
By the end of the week I was indeed ready to unwind and quite looking forward to seeing jazz chanteuse (and local gal done good) Connie Evingson debut live versions of the songs from her new CD Let It Be Jazz. The CD features covers of Beatles songs arranged in a variety of jazzy styles.
Let me preface this with a couple of personal tidbits: 1) Like countless others the Beatles music was the first music that changed me. Listening to their songs and falling in love with their music in junior high helped me get through the trials and tribulations and angst of my teenage years. 2) My best stupid human trick is that I can play any of the Beatles songs on the piano.
Prior to the concert my wedding planner and I stuffed ourselves at the Melting Pot in downtown Minneapolis. The new restaurant features a four course fondue feast and it was a great (if not slightly pricy) meal and the perfect prep to go to this particular concert at the Illusion Theater down the street. As Twin Cities' radio personality Jason Lewis tries to demonstrate every night the best Beatles fan is a bloated Beatles fan.
Evingson's jazz treatments of overly familiar (and comforting) songs worked extremely well. She opened the show (as she does her CD) with the one interpretation that failed to add to the original, a mystical reading of "Blackbird." The Beatles simple acoustic arrangement of a song about flight, freedom, and release is perfect and the jazz version with scat singing leaned toward something lounge like that took away from the message of the lyrics. On the other hand the next song "Can't Buy Me Love" skillfully turned the Beatles version inside out. The rocking affirmation became a cool and sedate declaration of the power of love. Evingson caressed the words with such precision that she added a sophistication to the rather simple yet still universal statement. Perhaps the best re-interpretation was on "The Night Before" a peppy early Beatles song that always has brought a smile to my face. I love how John and George's backup vocals ("AHH! the night before) encourage lead singer Paul to become more mournful and more aggressive. Evingson turned it into a reflective lament about how we all change at different speeds.
Halfway through the show (during a transcendental reading of "Fixing a Hole") I found myself transported back to the days I first fell in love with the Beatles songs, falling in love more deeply than ever before. I remember a warm spring day lying on the lime green shag carpet of my bedroom listening to a "new" Beatles LP I just bought, a compilation of their love songs. At the time I was becoming smitten, if not head over heals so, with a young lass named Karen Weiss who happened to be our junior high's best basketball player/french horn player. I was learning to hone my own versions of the Beatles songs on the piano including a version of a song I hadn't heard their version of, "For No One." I had no idea what the song really sounded like yet I loved the melancholy self consoling spirit inherent in the lyrics.
Plopping the newly purchased LP on my stereo I finally got to hear the song. "Your day breaks, your mind aches/You find that all her words of kindness linger on when she no longer needs you..." McCartney's vocals never sounded better and the bridge of the song appropriately featured a wailing french horn (who would have thought that term could ever exist?) solo. I couldn't help but become transfixed by the melodic expression of unrequited love echoing what I felt (or thought I felt) for Karen. Suddenly I could see as clearly as the sunlight blinding me the glare she would give me in my attempts to impress her.
Evingson's performance of "For No One" was terrific even to my less than discerning ears. Everything I learned about jazz I learned from former Cheapo employee Johnny Baynes who helped me establish my jazz collection. After a while I noticed Johnny didn't like any jazz musicians who weren't black. Albert Ayler or Lester Bowie were acceptable. Keith Jarrett and Dave Brubeck were not. The one exception was a little known singer, Shelia Jordan, who was once Charlie Parker's secretary. To me Evingson's sultry pure voice is reminiscent of Jordan's. Her voice ached as it poured out a soul's contents in a torch ballad arrangement of "For No One." Minus the french horn solo the song struck deeply with pianist Mary Louise Knutson's answering the vocalist's heart, and I hoped the one with me kinda felt the same.