The musicians in Rubber Soul Quartet have at least four things in common: they love The Beatles, they love to play jazz, they love to have fun on stage and they love to travel. Our second album, Something, is a kind of a “what if” project, where they musically move Beatles’ tunes around the world, to see if our harmonic and rhythmic “filters” can produce new versions of these fine English standards. With respect for the great compositions, they re-arrange them in a new style or combine them with parts of American jazz standards that they like. they take some of Lennon’s, McCartney’s and Harrison’s melodies on a jazz-journey, starting in New Orleans, making a few stops in various places in the USA, South America and France, and ending up in West Africa.
The main intention of the band is to experiment with the repertoire made by the gentlemen from Liverpool, having fun playing their beautiful songs live. Like The Beatles, Rubber Soul Quartet has a guitar-based sound but with the use of upright bass, reed instruments and hand percussion it is a more acoustic sound. As with their previous album, Blackbird (2020), the goal is not to copy, but to improvise and swing; to disassemble the musical building blocks – and put them back together again.
What we have here are eleven tracks of well-known Beatles tunes played in a jazz style. The tracks are not copies but well arranged covers played with admiration of the source material. The album’s title track is, I think a good example of what to expect across the playing time of forty-seven minutes. ‘Something’ starts with a clean bass and drum opening with Håvard Fossum playing the recognizable melody before moving in to the improvised section, which works very well, particularly with the guitar of Bård Helgerud. The drumming from Torstein Ellingsen is crisp with a marching band style to it that I rather like.
‘Eleanor Rigby’ is given a light Afro-Cuban beat played at mid-tempo. The guitar leads on the improvised section and Håvard Fossum plays some excellent sax lines. This version is a much more uplifting sound than the original. ‘The Fool On The Hill’ is a number that has been covered by many jazz artists so not too much needs to be said here other than this performance swings very well indeed.
‘Help’ is the second of three vocal tracks. The tempo is brisk with great rhythm section playing but is the addition of an excerpt from ‘All of Me’ (Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons) from guitarist Bård Helgerud that gives this particular track something different from the others on the album. ‘Michelle’ opens with with Håvard Fossum’s wonderful clarinet tone, which gives the tune a satisfying resonant sound. The guitar playing brings in a Latin dance vibe before the bowed bass of Andreas Dreier brings us back to the original tune. I found the stylistic variations within this number fascinating and worthy of repeat listening.
The final track is ‘You’ve Got Hide Your Love Away’ and the last of the vocal numbers. The guitar playing has an angularity to it but manages not to jar. Håvard Fossum plays sax, flute, and clarinet each bringing adding their own timbre to this mid-tempo tune – we also get to hear Torstein Ellingsen on trumpet, which adds yet another layer of sound. As with other tracks on Something the source material is front and centre but is how that material is played and augmented that keeps the listener engaged.
When I first received the details of this album from Losen Records I did approach it with a certain amount of trepidation. I have heard jazz versions of pop songs in the past that really have not worked. On top of that, I am not really a fan of the Beatles. Having said all that, I enjoyed listening to Something and as the goal of Rubber Soul Quartet was “not to copy, but to improvise and swing; to disassemble the musical building blocks – and put them back together again” I have to concur that they have achieved that goal with style, panache, and reverence to the music of the Beatles.
Musicians: Bård Helgerud – electric & acoustic guitars, vocals (5, 7, 11); Håvard Fossum – tenor & soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet; Andreas Dreier – double bass, background vocals (5, 7, 11); Torstein Ellingsen – drums & percussion, trumpet (11).
Tracklist: 1. Something. 2. Eleanor Rigby. 3. The Fool On The Hill. 4. Eight Days A Week. 5. I’m Only Sleeping. 6. Day Tripper. 7. Help!. 8. Michelle. 9. And I Love Her. 10. My Life. 11. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.