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San Francisco String Trio

May I Introduce To You

RIDGEWAY RECORDS RRCD006 [61:59]

 

 

 

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.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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