Unbelievable as it may seem to those of us who remember it as if it were yesterday, the Beatles’ Abbey Road came out 40 years ago. Wasn’t it just last week that we were sitting in a friend’s basement having our little minds blown by “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Oh! Darling”?
But whether it’s embedded in your DNA or just a piece of musical history, there was no denying the artistry and entertainment value offered up by the Art of Time Ensemble’s re-creation of Abbey Road this past weekend. Andrew Burashko, the founder, piano player and driving force behind Art of Time, commissioned a handful of arrangers and enlisted a small orchestra of the finest musicians in the area from a variety of disciplines for the project. Art of Time is a genius mashup of classically-trained violinists and cellists, jazz-based reed and trumpet players, singers from the pop and rock realm, and a rhythm section and percussionist that can do it all. Many musicians would shy away from tampering with work by artists as revered as the Beatles, but Burashko enlisted skilled, sensitive arrangers who were instructed to push the boundaries without straying too far from the original intent of the songs.
So we got Raine Maida’s earthy take on “Come Together” featuring Roberto Occhipinti’s edgy arrangement; a gorgeous, restrained “Something” sung by Sarah Slean and arranged by Gavin Bryars; and a crazy carnival ride in “Maxwell Silver Hammer” arranged by Cameron Wilson, with singer John Southworth alternating manically between cockney and German accents. Kevin Hearn played with soap bubbles and used a seashell as a phone on Jim McGrath’s fun version of “Octopus’s Garden.” The programme – like the album – culminated in an extended medley intricately and ingeniously weaving together diverse song styles, with all seven singers taking turns at the mics, entering and exiting the stage as if in a French farce. Steven Page trotted out a ukulele for the sweet, stripped down finale, “Her Majesty.”
The show was recorded by CBC for future broadcast, so keep your ears peeled for that.
Art of Time’s 2009/2010 concert series continues with a tour of Black Flowers featuring Sarah Slean (see my CD review for The WholeNote magazine online) with dates around southern Ontario and a visit to the newly opened Koerner Hall in the Royal Conservatory on October 22. An eclectic program of Brazilian music will be mounted at the Enwave theatre on December 4 and 5. Given the speed at which the Abbey Road shows sold out, if you want to catch this inventive ensemble, book your tickets now.