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Electric Beethoven: Hear No Evil (Color Red)

A review of bassist Reed Mathis' "silly fun" take on Beethoven compositions

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Electric Beethoven: Hear No Evil (Color Red)
The cover of Hear No Evil by Electric Beethoven

This is silly fun. Over the past several decades Beethoven’s compositions have been restyled as everything from jazz and electronica to metal and disco (remember Saturday Night Fever?), so here comes Reed Mathis turning ol’ Ludwig’s most pleasing earworms into funk.

Mathis, the bassist who led the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, teamed with drummer Josh Raymer, keyboardist Todd Stoops, and guitarist Clay Welch for Electric Beethoven and invited a bunch of guests, including saxophonist Karl Denson. Hear No Evil takes LVB’s six most recognizable melodies and recasts them as electric/electronic funk—then remixes them to create a second version of each. The opening movement of the Fifth Symphony becomes a hip-swaying, beat-heavy funk rocker supported by a Hammond B-3, in the style of the Meters and New Mastersounds. The second movement of the Seventh Symphony is turned into a funky dance tune with a hip-hop rhythm and a variety of lead synth voices. The “Ode to Joy” finale of the Ninth morphs into vigorous funk-rock, with Mathis taking the lead at first and then Stoops grabbing the wheel later on organ and Moog. The “Moonlight” Sonata is taken slow but with an insistent beat and a string-mimicking synth leading the charge. The band’s treatment of the “Pathetique” Sonata is more complex, with synths and organ layered over frenetic drumming that turns, of all things, Latin halfway through. “Für Elise” has the goofiest transformation, given a herky-jerky rhythm and filled with oddball synth noises. As for the remixes, a host of DJs deconstructs things further.

Don’t take this album seriously. Just dance.

Steve Greenlee

Steve Greenlee is the executive editor of the Portland Press Herald in Maine and a former longtime editor and jazz critic at The Boston Globe. He plays keyboards in the Maine bands Under The Covers and Sons Of Quint.