Various Artists

The Jazz Tribute to Sting and the Police

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When it comes to interpreting popular music, many straight-ahead bop and post-bop artists can be quite dogmatic and unimaginative. They're quick to embrace the Tin Pan Alley standards of George & Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Harry Warren, and Rodgers & Hart but, sadly, they suffer from the delusion that rock and R&B songs cannot possibly be relevant to jazz -- heaven forbid they should show some imagination and find the jazz potential in Marvin Gaye, Billy Joel, the Beatles, Prince, or David Bowie. Although the music of Sting (whose pop/rock has often been jazz-influenced) should be a natural choice for jazz improvisers, many ignore him -- many, but not all. Released in 2002, this instrumental, acoustic-oriented post-bop/hard bop disc finds a group of improvisers interpreting ten songs that Sting wrote. A few go back to his years with the Police ("Every Breath You Take" and "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"), but most are songs that the singer wrote after launching a solo career in 1984. Although a bit uneven, the disc has more pluses than minuses. Especially interesting are the players' arrangements of "Englishman in New York," "King of Pain," "Wrapped Around Your Finger," and "Desert Rose," all of which have a strong Blue Note influence and give listeners some idea of what might have happened if Sting had been recording in the '60s and Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers or Horace Silver got ahold of his work. However, the band isn't nearly as successful on disappointing performances of "If You Love Somebody (Set Them Free)" and "Fields of Gold," both of which meander and never go anywhere. But again, The Jazz Tribute to Sting and the Police has more ups than downs, and the CD's best tracks demonstrate that Sting's music can, in fact, be relevant to acoustic-oriented jazz.

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