John Beasley: Chan's Song
John Beasley (keyboards)
Letter to Herbie (Resonance RCD 1003)
Jeff “Tain” Watts (drums), Louis Conte (percussion).
Composed by Herbie Hancock.
Recorded: Beverly Hills, CA, August 2007
Rating: 88/100 (learn more)
With the exception of a reworking of sorts of "Maiden Voyage," John Beasley stayed away from the most iconic of Herbie Hancock's pieces on this tribute recording. This is both a wise and brave thing to do. Beasley gets points for this approach.
"Chan's Song" was written by Hancock for the soundtrack of Round Midnight, and though Stevie Wonder ended up writing lyrics for it and some jazz players have covered it, it still remains outside of iconic status. In the liner notes Beasley says he approached the tune as if Hancock's "Head Hunters were playing it." This can best be heard in McBride's ever-so-slightly funk electric bassline. Though to this listener, the piece comes off sounding more like what you might hear from Lonnie Liston Smith's "Quiet Moments" period without the strings. I like that Lonnie Liston Smith period, so that is a good thing to these ears.
One thing that is not quite fair, and Beasley alludes to this in his notes, is to be compared to the original performance. Unluckily for Beasley, I have the Round Midnight soundtrack. My rating is thus delineated: Beasley and crew receive 88 points for a fine arrangement and professional performance. Three points are removed because of Bobby McFerrin's wonderful trumpet-like vocalese on the original Herbie Hancock performance. It would have been nice to hear Roy Hargrove, who is also on Letter to Herbie, give that a whirl. I know that is unfair. Life is unfair.
Upon some further reflection, I have decided that life should be fair after all. Right here and now I give the three points back.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky