by Tom Haugen
Henri Elkan, 2021
The New York composer, arranger and scholar Wayne Alpern never disappoints, and here he brings us 20 familiar tunes that are reborn in his inimitable vision, and he’s got Gretchen Pusch, Gerard Reuter, Benjamin Fingland, Karl Kramer-Johansen and Adrian Morejon handling the instrumentation.
“Accustomed To Her Face” starts the listen with soft and soulful brass from Kramer-Johansen that moves with much emotion amid classical nods, and this meticulous nature follows to the playful and upbeat waltz “All The Things You Are”, where Pusch’s flute makes an immediate impression, while “Bartok Chorale” moves with stirring, sublime interplay.
Closer to the middle, “Do-Re-Mi” puts an elegant and memorable spin on the classic, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” offers a version of the Journey song like you’ve never heard, nor will forget anytime soon. “Have You Met Miss”, one of the album’s best, then dances around frisky melodies with plenty of spirited song craft, where Reuter’s oboe mesmerizes.
Highlights on the back half include the outfit’s animated version of “Nutcracker Suite”, where divine musicianship is present and appreciated, and “Over The Rainbow” is reworked in Alpern’s atypical brand of glorious songwriting. “You’ve Got A Friend” exits the listen, and brings much beauty to a very tuneful version of the James Taylor classic.
If you prefer your covers to unfold in the same key, tone and arrangement as the originals, this isn’t an album for you. However, if you like to see how an artist can explore the textures and manipulate the ideas of an existing song, often times making it barely recognizable from its original form, Jukebox will occupy a very comfortable spot in your collection.