December 9, 2020

One of the best albums I possess is Tribute To Radiohead by the French band The Amnesiac Quartet and it is a jazz re-working of some of the songs by the brilliant but often unfathomable British prog giants. It sounds unnerving but, trust me, it is a superb piece of musicianship and if you have a love of jazz then it is a must have album. The point I’m trying to make is that you should never prejudge a band or an album as you run the risk of missing out on some quite wonderful music. By following this rather circuitous route we now come to The Ed Palermo Big Band and the third album in the Great Un-American Songbook sequence. A name new to me and I suspect to most rock fans too, The Ed Palermo Big Band is a New York based jazz ensemble that has been around since the ’70s and has released very many albums but a big part of the band’s stock in trade is jazz re-workings of rock material particularly of Frank Zappa as well as such diverse acts as Miles Davis, The Beatles, King Crimson and Blodwyn Pig (I kid you not).

To me, jazz and progressive rock share many attributes and I love both equally as both genres are well known for flying off at tangents and you are often never sure where the music is going but you know you are going to enjoy the journey. This bizarre but truly wonderful eclectic jazz album sees Palermo arrange a number of British bands and their songs that were part of the British invasion and turns them into recognisable but totally different jazz re-inventions and just a quick glance at the CD cover conveys the Britishness of the proceedings. However, the ubiquitous Mr Zappa manages to get in on the proceedings too and the blend of the material is strange but delightful. Ed Palermo is the arranger and conductor of a wonderful sixteen piece big band and they offer such sublime versions of some very well know tracks but one of the delight is that Palermo has taken some of the, shall we say, lesser known compositions and his arrangements are either radically different interpretations or just simple re-inventions but all are done with style, vigour and amazing talent.

There is a tongue in cheek humour that runs through the album and the notes accompanying the download are some of the most detailed and interesting that I have ever seen, hopefully, these will be reproduced in the CD booklet. I will not lie, if you do not like jazz then this is an album you should avoid simply because it is jazz but if your leanings do take in this most diverse genre then steel yourself for a very interesting if somewhat unusual ride. Any band that wants to give us jazz versions of The Moody Blues or Procol Harum is OK by me and this album is very, very good but you do need to have an affection for jazz to appreciate it in its full glory.

The Great Un-American Songbook Vol III track list

  1. Within You Without You (Part 1) (The Beatles) / Stop Stop Stop (The Hollies) (5:26)
  2. Run For Your Life (The Beatles) (2:50)
  3. Strawberry Fields Forever (The Beatles) / Shove It Right In (Frank Zappa) (5:14)
  4. Glad (Traffic) 4:20, And Your Bird Can Sing (The Beatles) (0:48)
  5. Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite! (The Beatles) (4:04)
  6.  Within You Without You (Part 2) (The Beatles) (1:09)
  7. Come Together (The Beatles) / Chunga’s Revenge (Frank Zappa) (3:55)
  8.  Something In The Air (Thunderclap Newman) (0:55)
  9. Let’s Move To Cleveland (Frank Zappa) / Fixing A Hole (The Beatles) (5:38)
  10.  Nothing Is Easy (Jethro Tull) (4:57)
  11. A Salty Dog (Procol Harum) (4:14)
  12. Shine On Brightly (Procol Harum) (4:02)
  13. Nights In White Satin (The Moody Blues) / Moggio (Frank Zappa) (7:34)