David Lanz has been a preeminent force in New Age music for nearly thirty years. When Billboard magazine introduced the New Age album chart in 1988, Lanz's Cristofori's Dream was its first number one. It remained in the top position for twenty-seven weeks. Since then Lanz has been a mainstay of the New Age chart, as well as crossing over occasionally into the Contemporary Jazz chart.
His 2000 album East Of the Moon received a Grammy nomination for Best New Age Album. Somewhat uncomfortable with being pigeonholed as New Age, an invented category that means nothing in musical terms, Lanz's music transcends cliches by virtue of its strong melodicism and harmonic richness.
Most recently, Lanz has been exploring the songwriting of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. His latest release is Liverpool: Re-Imagining the Beatles, an album full of new instrumental arrangements of Beatles classics that accomplishes an impressive feat. The spirit of the Beatles' originals is retained while Lanz (and the musicians he assembled for the project) explore the nooks and crannies within the compositions. No possibility is left unexplored as the songs are reharmonized, sometimes joined together in surprising medleys. The resulting music is both familiar and new. Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Lanz about the album's creation.
What can you share about the genesis of the Liverpool album?
The jumping off point was thanks to my friend Gary Stroutsos, the flute player [on the album]. He did a recording of George Harrison's "Within You Without You" in 2009. He'd been watching what I had done, I had a break with "Whiter Shade of Pale" back in the '80s. And I did some other English covers, so he'd been wondering if - in his world of ambient and world music - if there was a piece of music that had a hook. Because Gary's stuff is meditative, not melody driven. He finally landed on "Within You Without You," which I thought was the perfect piece of music for him.
He called me in and I helped him arrange the piece. In the process of doing this track, which we ended up doing with Walter Gray on cello and David Revelli on percussion - both of whom ended up playing on the Liverpool record - initially I was thinking Gary should look at some other songs. But I kind of picked the ball up and started playing through some of my favorite Beatles tracks. Before I knew it I had painted myself into a corner of, "Okay, I guess it's time for me to do a Beatles tribute record." I hate that word, "tribute." But that's where it started, with that "Within You Without You" session. Then I went deep into the Beatles record catalog and tried to imagine which pieces I wanted to put together to take a unique approach to covering the Beatles.