Your Songs: The Music of Elton John
Presenting Elton John’s melodies in a fresh light is the obvious goal here, since it’s hard to imagine even the most cynical observer believing that Tonolo and company think the pop star’s commercial clout is powerful enough to send off hordes of fans in search of this recording.
If some stumble upon it, though, they’ll likely warm up to the album’s seven tuneful interpretations—or they will, at least, if they have the slightest affinity for contemporary jazz. After all, Tonolo, the Italian reedman, and his well-known collaborators—pianist-accordionist Gil Goldstein, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Paul Motian—aren’t out to willfully deconstruct or even playfully subvert John’s best-known themes. Far from it.
Tonolo’s soprano sax take on the album’s title track, for example, hews to the melody so faithfully that it invites listeners to hum along, but the arrangement boasts some subtle touches as well, including the elegant melodic variations spun by Swallow as the performance opens. Similarly, “Blue Eyes,” a showcase for Tonolo’s throaty tenor, won’t throw off anyone familiar with the melody, but the noirish arrangement, colored by Motian’s dabbing brushes, is certainly seductive enough to answer the question, why Elton John? Light on its feet, thanks again to Motian’s inspired handiwork, the quartet’s version of “Tiny Dancer” also has its charms, but it’s no match for the triple-meter take on “Rocket Man” or the harmonically tweaked arrangement of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Rounding out the album is a pair of Tonolo-penned tunes, including the John-inspired, winding theme “White Street.”