Album Review: Standard Deviation from Wayne Alpern
Artist: Wayne Alpern
Label: Henri Elkan Music
Having worked as a composer and arranger for numerous jazz ensembles, string quartets, woodwind and brass quintets, string orchestras, and piano arias, Wayne Alpern integrates pop music and jazz idioms on his latest release Standard Deviation. By crisscrossing genres, Alpern recompositions and reimagines familiar melodies, deviating from the originals and giving them a contemporary jazz visage. Songs made popular by Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Journey, the Temptations, The Zombies, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Bobbie Gentry, Katy Perry, and Gotye are groomed with a jazz demeanor.
The folksy tinged roots rock melody “She’s Not There” by the Zombies was a model of 1960’s mainstream pop/rock in its day. Alpern’s treatment of the song deviates from the original and applies new textures to the music. Benjamin Sutin’s arching violin strings plot frilly twirls that flare and recede intermittently as John Challoner’s trumpet, Owen Broder’s alto saxophone, and Nick Grinder’s trombone provide a refined stream of toots playing the main motif.
Switching to the R&B grooves of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’s perennial tune “Who Loves You Pretty Baby,” Alpern tweaks the melody with the horns performed by trumpeter John Challoner, alto saxophonist Owen Broder, tenor saxophonist Adam Larson, and trombonist Nick Grinder, articulating the composed motifs and flying off into fluffy, ruffing improvisations that give the track an organic vibe. Soaking the melody in jazz-imbued nuances gives it a new sound.
Coming into the 21st century, Alpern’s remake of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” fastens the frothy swells of Owen Broder’s clarinet to the bopping rhythm of bassist Dave Baron and drummer Nathan Ellman-Bell. The movements of Broder’s clarinet demonstrates a nimbleness and eloquence that produces gorgeous aesthetics. Alpern’s crowning achievement is his re-interpretation of Michael Jackson’s mega hit “Thriller.” Melodic themes and sharp punctuations are stated by the cadre of horns performed by John Challoner on trumpet, Owen Broder on alto saxophone, Adam Larson on tenor saxophone, and Nick Grinder on trombone, all beautifully expressed.
Standard Deviation, is the second album by Wayne Alpern, taking well-known contemporary popular songs and coloring them in a modern jazz palette. The music illustrates Alpern’s belief that deviating from the original motifs brings the music to a new level of melodic pleasure.
Wayne Alpern – arranger
Benjamin Sutin – violin
John Challoner – trumpet
Owen Broder – alto saxophone and clarinet
Nick Grinder – trombone
Dave Baron – bass
Nathan Ellman-Bell – drums
2Nick8 – vocals
Adam Larson – tenor saxophone
Jeff Burnige – vocals
Matt Podd – piano
D’Layna – vocals