Oct 29, 2009
Rock musician Sting – born Gordon Sumner 58 years ago this month – is one of the jazzier pop stars of the past forty years. Although he reached fame first as the bass player of the punk rock-styled band The Police, his first professional gigs during college and during breaks from being a school teacher were in jazz groups. He played with local bands such as the Phoenix Jazzmen, the Newcastle Big Band, and Last Exit in the Newcastle ara of England.
His songwriting from 1977 to the present has tapped into jazz stylings from time to time, and his solo recordings have usually had jazz musicians involved in the sessions. At least two of his songs, “Fragile” and “Fields of Gold”, have to be considered candidates for New Standards,. The former has been recorded by, among others, Kenny Barron and Regina Carter, Billy Childs, The Daugherty McPartland Group, Freddie Hubbard and Cassandra Wilson.
So here is another of my occasional “Jazz Does Rock” series of podcasts, a “Jazz Does Gordon Sumner” salute, with songs made famous by The Police and Sting, recorded here by:
Cassandra Wilson – "Fragile" from Glamoured. A poignant verion of the anti-war song that became something of an anthem after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Dianne Reeves – “Ever Breathe You Take” from Blue Note Plays Sting. Two separate albums of Blue Note artists playing his music have been released., and Miss Reeves graces each of them with a Sting ballad. Here she sings The Police’s biggest hit, with solos by Bob Belden (who did the arrangements), Mark Ledford and Kirk Whalum. L
Lynne Arriale Trio - "Wrapped Around Your Finger" from Now. Quietly, the Lynne Arriale Trio has been making expceptional music for a number of years, mixing standards, pop songs and jazz classics. This Police song kicked off the latest CD from Lynne Arriale on piano, Jay Anderson on bass, and Steve Davis on drums.
Christian McBride - "Walking On the Moon" from Sci-Fi. This is one of my favorite albums from the polific McBride, mixing covers of Herbie Hancock with those of Steely Dan and the Police. This version comes across as a ballad rather than the reggae sound of the original, That's Jame Carter with the bass clarinet solo, and Ron Blake on tenor and soprano saxophone; Shedrick Mitchell's piano and Fender Rhodes; David Gilmore on guitar, McBride on bass and Rodney Green on drums complete the band.
Kevyn Lettau - "Message in a Bottle" from Walking in Your Footsteps. In her own words: I first learned about The Police in the early 80's from my sister's old boyfriend. At that point I must admit I was a total Rock and Roll ignorant snob. If music wasn't either jazz, Joni Mitchell or old R&B, I couldn't have cared less! But when I really started to listen, I was blown away by the lyrics, the musicianship and the melodies, not to mention Sting's wonderful voice. I was very impressed, but still stayed with the other styles as far as my own singing and studying was concerned. Band members are led by smooth jazz star Russell Ferrante (Piano), along with Mike Shapiro (Drums), Jimmy Haslip (Bass), Luis Conte (Percussion) and Gary Meek (Saxophone).