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Jazz?: John Lester Quartet

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Most standards began as what we now refer to as covers, songs that everyone instantly recognized and could sing along to, even in their instrumental format. The shifting tides of pop culture have washed away many of Tin Pan Alley’s masterpieces-at least as far as the general public is concerned-but on his fourth release as a leader, bassist and singer John Lester has smartly updated the concept, using more contemporary hits for Jazz?

“Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows, Pink Floyd’s “Money” and Pearl Jam’s “Evenflow” are among the “modern standards” Lester covers on this mostly laidback disc. Lester also takes on Tori Amos’ “God” as a hard-swinging burner, the Cure’s “A Letter to Elise” as a ballad and Tom Petty’s “Breakdown” as a modal springboard for extended solos. Throughout, he splits the difference between his jazz and rock backgrounds, and the result is a middle-of-the-road aesthetic that has predictably found some success on jazz radio.

Originally Published