Bach meets the Beatles: “Golden Slumbers”

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    Bach meets the Beatles: “Golden Slumbers – You Never Give Your Money” – John Bayless, piano

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    Throughout the history of music improvisation has played an important role as a tool for the per­former to exhibit not only virtuosic technique but also a wide range of personal emotions. Taking a basic melody and spontaneously reworking, embellishing and developing it into something new and excitingly different is a rare talent that is not often seen today apart from the contemporary and jazz fields. What was once a necessary skill for a young artist has faded from importance in today’s musical world.

    However, on this new recording we find John Bayless -scholar, composer, virtuoso … improviser. His creations draw on elements from many different styles of music and fuse them into something uniquely his. Whether he is playing Bach. Lenon and McCartney or Bayless you will find an imagination at work that is fresh and singular. The Art of Improvisation is back, and it may never be the same again!


    Imagine! What if these two revolutionary musical forces of all time were to meet face to face? What would happen? Would they talk about music? Play their latest compositions? Discuss philosophy? Since this association is impossible presented here are some of the most popular songs of The Beatles improvised as Johann Sebastian Bach might have.

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    The four pillars of Bach’s world were the Fugue. Canon, Chorale, and Chorale Prelude. All of these improvisations were built on these four forms. In most instances the lyrics helped define which of the four forms would b the most illuminating to the melody of each song. Then came the decision of which kind of mood should be portrayed. The use of counterpoint interacting between melody and harmony was essential in creating the ap­propriate mood to support each melody.

    As the opening selection. “Imagine” is improvised in the style of a toccata, using melodic and rhythmic imitations to set the spirit of these inter­pretations.

    The three-note melodic phrase in “All You Need ls Love” provides the chorale in this chorale prelude selection. The continuous sixteenth note accompaniment flows along while from time to time the Chorale melody appears. The strong melodic line in “Hey Jude” required an equally strong accompanying figure. The style and nobili­ty of the French Overtures helped inspire this im­provisation. The purity of the long, sorrowful line in “Because” reminded me of the slow movements of Bach’s concerti. The ensemble and voicing of this three-part counterpoint, plus the unexpected harmonic progressions, show the sophistication of The Beatles’ music.

    The lyrics of “Let It Be” expressed a certain peace and tranquility. The beautiful, melodic line in “The Long And Winding Rod” reminded me of the strength and passion found in the chorales. The development of this improvisation uses the form of a Chorale Prelude, ending with another version of the previously improvised chorale.”Penny Lane” ends the first side in a lively, spirited “gigue.”

    Side II opens with one of the most popular songs ever. ”Yesterday.” The opening phrases of the Brandenburg Concerto #J, seemed fitting and right for the introduction to this improvisation.

    With Michelle l sought a dramatic contrast from the original smooth, romantic version of the song. The lyrics once again helped to set the mood and define the form of Nowhere Man. The undulating and brooding accompaniment gives support to this beautifully simple and pure melody. The drive and Hf e in the melodic line of And I Love Her gave me the essential idea for this improvisation.

    An improvised canon, using a nine-note phrase from “Golden Slumbers” serves as the introduc­tion to this improvisation. In Bach’s music the repetition of a single note gives a certain kind of strength and direction to the phrase.

    In the improvisation on Something the com bi na­tion of the harmonic strength, with the repeated notes in the melody, dictated a strict and grander interpreation.

    The long lyrical and soaring melody in Here, There and Everywhere gave me a chance to set this improvisation in a simple and pastoral way. I find this one of the most complete and satisfying songs by The Beatles.

    During the evolution and recording of this album, I felt a journey had been taken … through the music of the 60s and 70s, and through the life of one of the most thrilling and vibrant composers of all time. The finality and completeness of the Aria from the Goldberg Variations with the
    humility of Imagine brought me a sense of fulfillment and Joy!

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