Henri Elkan, 2020
While I generally feel that jazz artists enjoy covering other jazz artists- often ones that inspired them- Wayne Alpern offers a covers album of tunes that everyone has heard, but never quite like this. A composer, arranger and scholar who is well versed in jazz and classical sounds, this is Alpern’s 2nd album, and much like his debut, Skeleton, his sophisticated vision is unparalleled and the delivery flawless.
Alpern starts the listen with an upbeat and glorious version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, which retains all the hallmarks of the original but with Alpern’s keen sense of jazz dynamics. Other massive hits that are redone here include the anthemic “Don’t Stop Believin’”, which unfolds with violin, trombone, saxophone and trumpet all working together, as well as the soft and soulful “My Girl”, where clarinet and violin set the mood well.
A pair of Bob Dylan tunes are included, including the piano heavy “Dear Landlord”, that benefits greatly from John Challoner’s trumpet, while the bouncy bass line of “As I Went Out One Morning” highlights the tune well.
For the fans of modern day pop, Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” is present, and displays sweet melodica amid the jazz sensibilities that puts a fresh gloss on a radio standard.
An extremely fun listen that’s both nostalgic and contemporary, if you only pick up one jazz album this year, you’d be wise to make it Standard Deviation.