Wayne Alpern – Standard Deviation
We met music theorist, composer and arranger Wayne Alpern last year when he released his debut album Skeleton. Our review, which is easy to find on the web, also talked about Alpern himself, who was born in Detroit and now lives in New York. In Skeleton, Wayne included one of his own compositions and a dozen well-known jazz standards in his arrangements. He himself did not participate in the recording as a performer, entrusting the performance of music to experienced musicians.
Alpern presents his new album Standard Deviation in a similar vein. The paradox of the name – “Standard Deviation” – gives the key to his creative principle: to take something very famous and familiar and show it in a completely different light, which sometimes allows you to see (and in our case, hear) unexpected and interesting details. In Standard Deviation, Alpern again appears exclusively as an arranger. For the new program, he selected ten compositions of various styles – from pop to folk rock, some of which are world hits like Thriller by Michael Jackson, and turned them into jazz compositions.
For my taste, he did it with a lot of talent, faithful to the original, but breathing a true jazz spark into these very different songs. I really admired the transformation of two old and very famous songs by Bob Dylan, Dear Landlord and As I Went Out One Morning – convincing and beautiful! By the way, only this Nobel laureate in literature was awarded two tracks in this album: Wayne seems to have a special love for Dylan’s work, which the author of these lines gladly shares with him. And the rest covers a surprisingly wide range: Don’t Stop Believin’ from Journey, My Girl from the Temptations, Somebody That I Used to Know from Gotye, and Ode to Billie Joe from Bobby Gentry.
As in the previous project, Wayne assemble a large group of musicians, including several vocalists, to implement Standard Deviation. Although the album’s compositions are all instrumental pieces, the vocals are present in a clever and convincing way as additional colors. Of the many talented instrumentalists who worked on the album, I cannot but mention trumpeter John Challoner and violinist Benjamin Sutin: their performance clearly adorned this very remarkable new album, creatively developing the ideas of its predecessor.