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BeatleJazz Trio: Another Bite of the Apple

The worth of a trio project like BeatleJazz, whose sole purpose is to strip Beatles songs of their yeah-yeah-yeahs and goo-goo-goo-joobs and dress them up in polite and pretty uptown jazz, is questionable. While the accompanying press release has drummer/producer Brian Melvin, pianist Dave Kikoski and bassist Charles Fambrough extolling the virtues of the Fab Four, the actual record does little to convince they were ever under Beatlemania’s spell.

Like the first BeatleJazz album (1999’s A Bite of the Apple), Another Bite of the Apple collects songs from all periods in the Beatles’ career, from a version of “It Won’t Be Long,” arranged reverently close to the original, to a reggae on “Let It Be.” The trio relies heavily on the Lennon-McCartney songbook but it does include a bouncy take on George Harrison’s “Blue Jay Way” and even the post-Beatles Harrison song “Give Me Love.” Poor Ringo.

Leaving Melvin and Fambrough in the background on most tracks, Kikoski is the one that really takes charge, dramatically reharmonizing tunes like “Blackbird” and “Michelle” and filling most of the time with overlong solos. Though just as light, Kikoski’s touch doesn’t move the soul like McCartney’s croon, and for all the sweetness in a song like “Julia,” Lennon’s original carried a sense of longing Kikoski can’t seem to capture. In fact, the whole recording feels put-on-nothing is real-and BeatleJazz’s focus on rearrangement should have been redirected to creating a group dynamic on par with the Beatles’ divine synergy.

Originally Published