June 17, 2024


Website about Jazz and Blues

CD review: Helge Iberg – The Black on White Album 2022: Video, CD cover

I’m going to come clean, I’ve never been a fan of that 1960s’ phenomenon known as the Beatles. I found most of their lyrics either amateurish or so profound that only they knew what they meant!

However, after dispensing with the words, the vocals, the inept drumming and the basically average instrumentalists what do we have left?

The music! It is no surprise that many of their tunes have, over the years with varying degrees of success, been picked up by symphony orchestras, big bands, jazz singers and anyone who wanted to hitch their wagon to a star – most of whom should have known better.

An exception is Norwegian pianist/composer Helge Iberg who brings a new dimension to some of the old chart-toppers as well as introducing me to one or two of those that had flown under my radar.

It may be difficult to describe this as an out and out jazz album but, despite the occasional classical flourishes, there is no other genre that it is closer to.

If you were having a candlelit supper with ‘that certain someone’ you wouldn’t want to have Yellow Submarine providing the mood music – at least not by the four lads from Liverpool! However, Iberg’s reflective interpretation of the same tune might just help to put breakfast for two on the menu…

Helge Iberg writes: “Listening to the Beatles in my childhood and early youth left lasting impressions. Their style of melody and harmony were as fresh and challenging as their attitude and concepts. No doubt they revealed groundbreaking ideas in the field of popular music. But whereas (for example) Stevie Wonder’s ingenious song treasure is strongly woven into his advanced harmonies and iconic grooves, The Beatles’ song portfolio is more accessible to artistic intervention and stylistic challenges. My re-creation of some iconic songs has jazz- and classical inspired ideas, but relies upon the melodic “naïveté” needed to safeguard the music’s deep human appeal. The songs themselves are evergreen and alive, but can in this context only be justified by musical measures that should surprise and delight – preferably without being “artful”.

Beatles and no end. The Norwegian pianist Helge Iberg has also taken a liking to the catalog of songs by the eternally young pop gods from Liverpool. He tries to approach the fascination of their music on the piano alone. In doing so, he gets to the bottom of the immortal melodies primarily through an extreme reduction in tempo. This is obvious with ballads like “Blackbird” or “Michelle”, but surprisingly it also works with hits like “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” or “Yellow Submarine”, whose melodies are suddenly extremely touching. “Mother Nature’s Son” becomes a pastoral hymn through daring reharmonization, songs like “Come Together” or “Lady Madonna” get a new perspective by focusing on their irresistible rhythmic drive forward. Iberg has also managed a visual highlight: the black and white piano keys on the back of the cover are transformed into the world-famous Abbey Road zebra crossing.

02.Yellow Submarine
03.Eleanor Rigby
04.Lady Madonna
06.Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
07.And I Love Her
08.Mother Nature´s Son
09.Come Together
10.Here Comes The Sun
11.She’s Leaving Home
12.Nowhere Man


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