A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper


Title: A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper
Artist: Various
Label: Verve/Impulse!
Formats: CD, LP, Vinyl
Release date: November 30, 2018


The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released in the summer of 1967, was an experimental concept album that fused elements of psychedelia, vaudeville, avant-garde, and Western and Indian classical music into an art rock masterpiece.  Verve’s new compilation, A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper, calls upon some of today’s hottest young jazz musicians to reinterpret all 13 tracks of the groundbreaking album.

Makaya McCraven, Miles Mosley and Cameron Graves of the West Coast Get Down collective all take a turn on this project. Hot on the heels of McCraven’s acclaimed 2018 release, Universal Beings, the jazz drummer builds on his success with one of Sgt. Pepper’s most iconic tracks, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” McCraven extends the chill opening section, handing the melody over to vibraphonist Joel Ross, but cranks up the psychedelia in the midsection with overlapping improvisations, rhythmic tensions, and synth effects. Bassist Miles Mosley, known for his strong debut album, Uprising, gives “Lovely Rita” his signature fusion of jazz, funk and rock with liberal applications of the wah wah pedal and piano riffs from Graves.  The “Planetary Prince,” aka Cameron Graves, turns “Fixing a Hole” into an extended piano solo showcasing his astonishing technique, which draws from classical music (ala Ravel and Bartok) as much as jazz.

Other featured artists include harpist Brandee Younger on a sensuous rendition of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!,” Sullivan Fortner on a playful solo piano version of “When I’m Sixty-Four,” trumpeter Keyon Harrold on “She’s Leaving Home,” and Shabaka Hutchings & The Ancestors giving an international flavor to “Good Morning Good Morning.”

Though few of these tracks will be immediately recognizable to the average Beatles fan, the artists maintain the original concept of experimentation, fusing many new elements into the equation. A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper is a fantastic compilation that breathes new life into the Beatles’ songbook, reimagined over 50 years after its initial release.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss