Onetime big-band composer Marius Nordal saw a niche unfilled in jazz -- while many contemporary performers put in time with the standards of the American Songbook (Cole Porter, Rodgers, Hart, Hammerstein, etc), there is relatively little attention given to slightly newer pieces of popular music, even those taken as standards of the form. With the problem thus defined, Nordal set out to make contemporary jazz recordings of some of the classics of the baby boomer generation -- Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and beyond. The catch, however, is that he declined to use accompaniment, sticking to solo piano in order to retain some individuality in the performances rather than appearing to simply cover the originals with the piano. As he takes the solo piano to the pieces, the result is something of a transformation for many of the songs -- a highly lyrical piece becomes more twinkling in his hands, a grooving bassline becomes, in effect, a dose of stride piano. The dissociation between original and modern is somewhat less than some similar albums (such as Herbie Hancock's excellent New Standard effort), but the transformation is most certainly there. The Beatles' "She's Leaving Home" is given a healthy dose of what would seem to the casual listener to be Bill Evans' "Waltz for Debby." "Good Vibrations" shimmies and rumbles. "Mrs Robinson" comes out with a bass groove that Vince Guaraldi could have engineered for the Peanuts gang. In some tracks, Nordal's influence seems limited -- songs get played as fairly straightforward department store versions. However, Nordal takes his flourishes in unexpected locations. "Killing Me Softly" provides a palette for some flights of fancy. On the stray originals from Nordal that finish off the album, there's a greater sense of his approach to music and an intriguing mix of Evans-style post-bop and classic blues fingering. The album rises to meet a possibly insurmountable goal -- doing something new with great (and complex) pieces of modern music without stepping on their legacies at the same time. Nordal plays it safe from time to time in pursuit of that goal, but he strikes very close with surprising commonness.
AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg