Sunday, September 11, 2011

“David Lanz: Liverpool - Re-Imagining The Beatles: An Inside Look”

The music of pianist David Lanz has been lumped in with New Age, smooth-jazz, fusion, semi-classical, and no doubt a few other categories. However, his distinctive blend of instrumental idioms really falls into no single genre, yet hints at several. It is within that spirit of stylistic eclecticism that Lanz recorded an album of Beatles songs, “Liverpool - Re-Imagining The Beatles”, arranged in his typically atypical manner. This DVD offers insight into the artist’s creative process as well as three music videos of tracks from that CD.

Lanz tells us he purposely stayed away from the most famous Beatles songs, such as “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude”. But since there are relatively few truly “obscure” Beatles songs (aside from a handful of B-sides), the melodies will pretty much all be familiar to those listeners who were around during the 1960’s. It’s to Lanz’ credit that he makes them sound fresh all over again, and even manages to throw you off the scent on a few, so that their identity is not immediately apparent. We get to see candid footage of Lanz and his fellow musicians in the studio as they bring these magical sounds to life. His cohorts include regular Lanz collaborators Gary Stroutsos on an end-blown Chinese bamboo flute called the xiao, and ex-Kronos Quartet cellist Walter Gray, as well as the late Bread keyboardist Larry Knechtel on organ for one piece.

The interview segments include a discussion by Lanz and Stroutsos (who bears a decided resemblance to Robert DeNiro) on the impact the Beatles’ music made on them. Lanz in particular calls them “my mentors”. They also discuss the songs chosen for the album, the collaborative process, Lanz’ compositional methods (starting with the melody and developing upwards from there, rather than constructing a tune from an existing harmonic structure; for this reason, the Beatles’ songs appeal to him because of their strong melodies), and his wish not to do “cover versions” per se, but to make the songs his own. A few brief portions of the Lanz/Stroutsos discussion are used more than once on the disc, when deemed relevant.

There is also an interview with “Mythodrama” leadership guru Richard Olivier (son of the great British actor Lawrence Olivier; Richard does a voice-over on the CD) concerning the mythology of the Beatles, as well as the affect they had on audiences in both the UK and USA. Perhaps it is because I am totally unfamiliar with the Mythodrama concept, but I confess to not getting much out of this segment.

I can’t help but think this DVD would have been more effective if it had been packaged with the “Liverpool” CD in a CD/DVD combination package. Nevertheless, I would think that most Lanz followers who already own the CD will find this disc to be a welcome enhancement to their listening experience. If you’re unfamiliar with the CD, I would start with that first.

62 minutes. Both CD and DVD are available through

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