Two locals adapt music of the Beatles
Minneapolis Star-Tribune - April 25, 2003

Jon Bream, April 25, 2003

The words are by Lennon and McCartney, but the music could almost be credited to Evingson and Knutson. Veteran Twin Cities jazz singer Connie Evingson and pianist Mary Louise Knutson have dramatically rearranged 13 Beatles songs for the singer's CD "Let It Be Jazz," which is also the name of her stage show this weekend at the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis.

"When I'm 64" becomes a tango, "From Me to You" becomes Brazilian, "Oh Darlin' " becomes a New Orleans blues, "Fixing a Hole" becomes a Steely Dan-like reggae, and "The Night Before" becomes a late-night ballad. (And in a hidden track, "When I'm 64" is reworked as a Dixieland number.)

"It usually comes organically from the song," said Evingson, who relishes re-interpreting and rearranging the familiar. "I start singing the tune in different phrasing, and the phrasing generallyleads to the feel." Sometimes, the arrangements were a little bit of cut-and-paste. One day, as Evingson was doing the dishes, an unexpected introduction for her blues version of "Blackbird" popped into her head.

"I knew I wanted to work in an Eastern thing and the sitar because it was a big part of theBeatles thing," she said. "I started humming away, improvising on blues. I started doing this Eastern line and developed it as an intro to the all-blues 'Blackbird.'

" I love when ideas come like that. They come at times like when you're doing dishes or taking a shower or driving or doing something when you're captive but your mind is free to wanderbecause you have to stay at some task that you don't have to think. I just love that part of creativity." Some Beatles songs don't lend themselves to jazz treatments, Evingson said last week, because they have simple lyrics and simple harmonic structures. Knutson, who was not especially familiar with the Beatles, was an important collaborator on the arrangements, the singer said. Evingson, who is in her 40s, has been talking about doing an album of jazz interpretations of the Beatles since 1995. The Fab Four and Joni Mitchell have been her principal pop influences. Other jazz singers, including Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and John Pizzarelli, have done jazz collections of Beatles tunes.

Evingson undertook this project in earnest about two years ago. She debuted the show duringlast summer's Fringe Festival. Now she has returned for a more fully realized production, which is doubling as a CD-release party. " I'm looking at this as a concert presentation in an intimate theater setting," said Evingson, who has done a Peggy Lee tribute show at the Illusion several times since 1997.

She has not planned an elaborate production for her "Let It Be" program. "I do have a pair of authentic Beatles boots that I got in Liverpool online," she said. "I was tempted to get blue suedebut I just went with the black." Devouring the Fab Four's "Anthology" book and TV series, Evingson has met the Beatles all over again. " I have 10 titles and seven arrangements for Volume 2," she said. "But my next record will be a guitar record. I don't have the songs yet, but almost every track is a different guitarist."

© 2003-2018 Connie Evingson