Bob Belden

Strawberry Fields

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    5
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Jazz artists have tried intepreting the songs of Lennon and McCartney ever since the Beatles caught on in 1964; remember Ella Fitzgerald's "Can't Buy Me Love?" Although this particular effort by arranger Bob Belden is a bit hipper (the singers grew up listening to the Beatles), the treatments are just as unsatisfying. Despite the presence of a few jazz players, this is essentially a showcase for R&B-ish interpretations of Beatles hits with the focus on singers Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, Holly Cole, Jahilsa, Penny Ford and Sylvia Shemwell on various tracks. Rather than casting the familiar songs in new settings with fresh ideas (such as Belden's recommended Sting tribute of a few years earlier), the treatments come across as modernized rehashes. True, the music has not often been sung by female vocalists, and none of these renditions are note-for-note recreations, but neither are the melodies and lyrics uplifted or transformed into anything worth remembering. Cassandra Wilson (who sounds as bored as ever) and Dianne Reeves take a duet, but unfortunately their talents are wasted on "Come Together." Reeves, with her glorious long tones, comes across best out of the singers (she interacts with Javon Jackson a bit on "The Fool on the Hill"), but this date can only be recommended to her greatest fans. And as for Jahilsa's "Hey Jude" and Sylvia Shemwell's "Let It Be," why bother?