The Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra presented With A Little Help From My Friends, The Beatles Songbook to a sold out audience this past Sunday afternoon, April 23rd, 2023. Artistic director for this Beatles program and lead alto saxophonist, Neil Watson, took the microphone in between songs to not only introduce each piece and soloists but added a lot of interesting Beatles facts and anecdotes.
Some of the arrangements for this show already existed; like All My Loving, (arranged by Chico O’Farrill, originally for the Count Basie Orchestra), A Hard Day’s Night (also arr. Chico O’Farrill) and Norwegian Wood (arr. By Bill Holeman for The Buddy Rich Big Band). The remaining pieces in the program were commissioned arrangements by musicians of the WJO and Winnipeg community. To name just a few of these great arrangements, we heard a Lee Morgan 1960’s shuffle version of Can’t Buy Me Love by Niall Cade, a Disco re-imagining of Elenor Rigby by Fred Stride, and a beautiful, meditative interpretation of Across the Universe by Greg Crowe. Vocalist and guitarist Jaime Buckboro was the perfect match to sing these arrangements. With his seemingly effortless range, his voice was heard soaring high above the lush and full big band harmonies. The concert ended with a standing ovation and Hey Jude was played as an encore which got the audience singing and clapping along.
After the concert, Neil Watson had a few more thoughts on how he felt the concert went:
“Before immersing myself in preparing for my show I was a very casual Beatles fan. I was familiar with their big hits but that's about it. As I dove into their history and the deep cuts from their records I found myself fascinated with the meteoric rise of the band, and all the trappings, and the inevitable strain on the band members, that came with that sort of fame. I also discovered how much great music they wrote...way too much to cover in one concert. I wanted to tell their story through the music and I think we achieved that.
I was also really impressed with the arrangements we came up with: all the arrangers stayed true to the spirit of the music but came up with a unique WJO take on the songs we chose.
Finally, I had never met our singer Jamie Buckboro before rehearsals for this show (although some in the band knew him well) and what a voice! Jamie was a blast to work with, and sounded amazing singing the Beatles' music. I'm so glad he was available, and willing to tackle our new arrangements.”
If you missed the live show WJO plays the Beatles songbook, it was recorded and will be available to stream between May 5-26th, 2023. Find tickets here.
All photo credits go to Keith Levit Photography.
Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra
The Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra (WJO) is Canada’s first community-based, non-profit professional jazz orchestra. Founded in 1997 (registered charity in 2000), the WJO has matured to become an important part of Winnipeg’s cultural landscape, reflected in the ongoing support the organization receives from the Manitoba Arts Council, the Winnipeg Arts Council, the Winnipeg Foundation, and other sponsors. The mandate of the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra is to be an instrumental force in the promotion and development of big band jazz in Manitoba and beyond, through performance, composition, recording and education.