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Beatles fans love to explain that one key to the successful partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney was their contrasting songwriting personalities: Lennon was the tongue-in-cheek, sardonic wit, McCartney, the earnest balladeer. On john pizzarelli’s John Pizzarelli Meets The Beatles (RCA Victor), a well-conceived tribute that sets the duo’s classics in jazz-trio and big-band arrangements, the singer/guitarist hits the mark most often when taking on McCartney’s tunes. He approaches “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “When I’m 64,” and “Get Back” with a playful wink, jumping off his speedy melody lines and the rising brass sections for extended improvisational tradeoffs with pianist Ray Kennedy. Pizzarelli adds colorful touches like scatting and even ad-libs his own lyrical verses based on the originals. Likewise, he treats an instrumental version of “Eleanor Rigby” with an aggressive sense of swing. And his intense vocal on a percussive “Oh, Darling” helps the tune rise above mere cover-band fare. However, when Pizzarelli presents ballads like “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and “Long and Winding Road” with maudlin arrangements, he pretty well grinds the party to a halt.
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