When I’m Sixty-Four
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
Fixing A Hole
Within You Without You
With A Little Help From My Friends
Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite
Lovely Rita; Betting Better
Good Morning Good Morning
She’s Leaving Home
A Day In The Life
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Mads Tolling (violin); Mimi Fox (electric, acoustic, 12 string guitars);
Jeff Denson (double bass, vocals)
Recorded September 2016, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA and January 2017,
Opus Recording Studios, Berkeley, CA
The Beatles and Jazz don’t usually work well together. But the San
Francisco String Trio, whose formal, even portentous name hides adventurous
spirits, has found a clever and consistent approach to the twelve songs,
all of which, with the exception of George Harrison’s Within You Without You, are the work of Lennon and McCartney.
Their conception is occasionally tangential, never reproductive, and always
sonically interesting. It’s certainly no Repertory Company approach.
There’s a splendid approach to detail in these arrangements. Take When I’m Sixty-Four for example. This opens with a violin solo,
followed by a deft guitar passage, the violin playing over an arco
double-bass after which the bass takes an arco solo over the guitar’s
comping. The arrangement retains the cheeky ethos of the song but
translates it into an acoustic string trio milieu adeptly. By contrast
there’s an outdoors, rather folksy approach in violinist Mads Tolling’s
playing on Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and a bluesy guitar makes
its impression in Fixing a Hole.
The trio also pays attention to the words; not that there are many vocals
(and when there are they’re sung by bassist Jeff Denson) but rather to the
way in which the texts inflect the music. So, the violinist coils his tone
in his ‘questions’ in With a Little Help from My Friends, and is
answered by deftly plangent guitar lines: there are more folkloric elements
here and a hint of melancholy that proves rewarding to hear. There’s a
dance patterned quality to Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite and it
generates a rich sense of atmosphere whilst the meter maid herself, Lovely Rita, encourages some of the bluesiest guitar on the
session from Mimi Fox.
It’s this quietly transformative musical element that raises the disc far
above the run of homages or bored run-throughs of this material. There’s a
bluegrass feel to Good Morning Good Morning that, fusing with the
endemic folkloric strain – here almost a hoe-down – proves more pervasive
and lingering than any specifically jazz-based impetus. A Day in the Life evokes this last element more strongly – that
impossible-to-replicate tumultuous chord encouraging jazzier playing than
is often to be found elsewhere.
That doesn’t seem to matter much. This is a personal, personable album. It
cleverly evokes other musics into its string mesh and serves up The Beatles
in a folksy, bluesy, lightly jazzy way.