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Bob Dylan is a towering figure in folk, and as we were reminded a few days ago, his legacy extends deep into rock music, too, via the all the strong and memorable covers done by rock bands, especially The Byrds. What's more interesting is that Dylan's reach also extends to music forms that have little or no commonality with folk, like straight jazz.
I'm reminded of the universal appeal of Dylan songs by this brand new CD by jazz pianist Leslie Pintchik, We're Here To Listen (out since October 26), her third overall.
A feathery, tight set of mostly originals and a few standards, for former English Lit teacher Pintchik leads a quartert of guys who have been in her group forever: bassist Scott Hardy, drummer Mark Dodge and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. Prior to Pinchik starting this group with Dodge twelve years ago, Hardy (as a guitarist) and Pintchik both have played for the legendary jazz bassist Red Mitchell. Later this week (November 5), the group will release DVD/CD and Blu-Ray discs of a live performance, entitled Leslie Pintchik Quartet Live In Concert. The DVD/Bu-Ray also contains a rendition of Blowin' In The Wind."
It's easy to see why Pintchik chose to cover this song and make it a concert staple (see video of live version below, excerpted from the DVD). Like all Dylan classics, it has a simple but resolutely definable melody, based on the Negro spiritual No More Auction Block." Even if the lyrics aren't being sung, as in this case, you can't help but singing them in your mind, because Dylan songs are known equally for the harmonies and the poignant poetry Dylan chooses to put to them. This one may be the most covered of all Dylan songs: artists ranging from Dolly Parton and Nickel Creek to Neil Young and The Staple Singers have put out their own versions. Peter, Paul and Mary had the first cover version, and it was a hit for them back in 1963, helping to get Dylan himself his first widespread notice.
Pintchik's rendition begins the tune in a odd way: with cymbal splashes and gongs. Being that this is the first track of the album, it's a way of beckoning listeners to attention. Following this brief intro, the foursome launches into a nuanced samba rhythm, enhanced by Takeishi's tonal splashes of percussion. Hardy and Dodge are a single unit, with one playing a beat and the other playing the perfect counter-beat to manufacture a full yet not overpowering rhythm. For her part Pintchik displays an agile touch to her piano. She does reinvent Dylan's melody somewhat, especially by adding a nice little riff after the chorus, but smartly plays the chorus part straight, so the words the answer my friend is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind" runs through your head. The social message behind the refrain is accentuated by the rhythm section just a little bit more intense for that section. After the leader's crisp solo, Dodge performs his own, evoking the high register forays of Eddie Gomez.
Although a pretty good composer in her own right, Leslie Pintchik understands the soul behind other people's songs, and keeps that soul intact when putting her own imprint on it. There's no better example of that than on this version of such a powerful, well-known song like Bob Dylan's Blowin' In The Wind."
Both We're Here To Listen and Live In Concert are products of Pintchik's own Pintch Hard Records.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.