Wouldn't It Be Nice: A Jazz Portrait of Brian Wilson
Blue Note Records
Conceived and produced by guitarist Tim Weston, Wouldn't It Be Nice: A Jazz Portrait of Brian Wilson (Blue Note CDP 7243 8 33092 2 1; 65:39) is not your average tribute album. Employing an impressive array of musicians, from Jeffrey Osborne and the Yellowjackets to Dori Caymmi and Shelby Flint, the album is an eclectic and disarming exploration of Wilson's compositions, often bringing out shades of meaning bubbling below the well-traveled surfer anthems. The range of approaches alone is impressive: Don Grusin gives a swinging, semi-gospel read (with Tollack Olestad on harmonica) to "Surfer Girl," Eliane Elias takes a meditative solo piano look at both "Our Sweet Love" and "Friends," and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" is given a dark, emotional read with the combination of Osborne's deep vocals and Ralf Rickert's mute horn breaks. There are more straightforward, c-jazz covers as well, but most revealing are the truly unexpected: like Caymmi's spellbinding Brazilian take on "Caroline No" and Mark Egan's haunting, circular read of the lesser-known "When I Die." Stitched together by resonant a capella "cameo appearances" courtesy of the Clark Burroughs Group, the album tells a story which is almost as complicated and rich as Wilson's own.