A jazz tribute to the Beatles is not unusual, there are many out there, but what is more selective is a tribute that tries to re-shape the Beatles’ original music, and does so successfully, and that is what we have in Daria’s creative re-structuring of the ‘fab four’ on her new album, “Strawbwrry Fields Forever (Songs by the Beatles)”. Daria and her crew of San Francisco jazz artists take on several Lennon-McCartney classics, and do so fearlessly as they dare to re-harmonize some of pop culture’s most treasured melodies. It’s a bold move, but it pays off as this CD is much more interesting than yet another more faithful ’by-the-numbers’ rendition. You’ll easily recognize every tune on here, but as the songs unfold, you will be intrigued by changes in harmony, melodic line, and rhythm. It’s the changes in rhythm on ‘Strawberry’ that may be the album’s most striking feature, as the Beatles’ original pop/rock beats are replaced with syncopated rhythms from Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica and New Orleans.
An interesting thing happens when you transform the music to a well known Beatles song, once the background becomes less familiar, the lyrics come shining through in a new way and you are reminded that these guys not only wrote good tunes, but they were often very capable modern poets as well. You may not think “Come Together” can work as a samba, but the new rhythms isolate Lennon’s flow of consciousness nonsense lyrics and takes them to new heights (of silliness?). Some other highlights include a horn driven New Orleans funk version of “Helter Skelter”, and a nu-jazzy psychedelic version of title track “Strawberry Fields”.
Production and arrangement on “Strawberry Fields Forever” is excellent and they keep things interesting by varying the ensembles from piano quartet, to Steely Dan styled mini-big band, Afro-Cuban ensemble or other variations. Many guest musicians offer a variety of horns, guitars, keyboards and percussion. Daria is an excellent singer and her treatment of these well known classics is thoughtful and delivered with insight