[Dixielandjazz] Beatles Songs by Jazzers

Ken Mathieson ken at kenmath.free-online.co.uk
Sat Nov 21 15:01:32 PST 2009

Hi All,

For many years in the 1970s and 80s I played in the house trio at The Black Bull Jazz Club in Milngavie just outside Glasgow. The trio was led by a fine pianist called Kenny Stewart, whose principal influence was Oscar Peterson. However, like the bassist and me, he had come up through Dixieland bands, so we covered a range of styles and worked with touring US and UK musicians as diverse as Bud Freeman and Sonny Stitt. 

We used to play Norwegian Wood as a trio number, but instead of being in 3/4 throughout, we played every third bar in 2/4. We did that through the head, the release and the jazz choruses and it was a swine to get down. However, apart from being a challenge to play, it gave an otherwise fairly dull piece a real off-centre lilt, not to mention a very genuine feeling of danger. Once we'd got on top of it, we couldn't hear the piece any other way, so interesting things used to happen with metre whenever any of us played it with other bands. 25 years later, I still hear the tune that way and think it's a more interesting way to play it than the way it was written. If you want an interesting, but rewarding challenge give it a try!

Having grown up listening to Armstrong, Bechet, Ellington, Parker, Gillespie, Gil Evans etc, I found the Beatles' material pretty mundane and couldn't understand what the fuss was about. I also had a pal who was a session musician in London who talked of having played several tunes on "light music" recordings years before, which later turned up kitted out with words as "being" by the Beatles. The clear inference was that Fats Waller's habit of selling tunes to others was still being practised in the 1960s in London.


Ken Mathieson

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list