Grammy-nominated composer and pianist David Lanz has dipped into The Beatles songbook once again for Here Comes the Sun. Last year Lanz released one of the most inspired tributes to their music I’ve heard, Liverpool: Re-Imagining the Beatles, so a sequel was a very exciting prospect. Happily, many of the elements that made the first album such a success are back – adventurous song selections, inventive arrangements, and excellent musicianship courtesy of flutist Gary Stroutsos, cellist Walter Gray, and bassist Keith Lowe.
Rather than simply repeating the formula, however, Lanz has given Here Comes the Sun its own unique feel. Gone is the percussion that lent a jazzy swing to some of the previous album’s tunes. What we now hear is an even calmer, more meditative exploration. Lanz excels at getting inside these classic melodies, mining them for even greater richness. He limited himself last time to Lennon/McCartney compositions, but as the title makes plain Lanz includes George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun.” His lovely take on that classic is preceded by a brief original prelude, “Sunrise Follows Moon.”
The album’s centerpiece is a dark, moody reading of “I Am the Walrus.” Walter Gray’s cello perfectly captures the seasick queasiness of the original’s string score. The dramatic stop-time arrangement draws a suspenseful sense of tension from the musicians. As with Liverpool, this album is best approached without looking at the track listing in advance. It’s better to let the tunes surprise you, as with the initially unrecognizable “Please Please Me.” Lanz teases the ear with a slippery introduction that keeps the listener guessing before landing on the familiar melody. Even then, there’s nothing conventional about Lanz’s approach to the material. In his most straightforward interpretations, in this case a faithful jaunt through “Penny Lane,” Lanz still works in his own little harmonic twists to keep things unpredictable.
While Here Comes the Sun opens with the music of Harrison, it concludes with a tribute to The Beatles’ producer George Martin. An original composition, “Sir George (Liverpool Farewell),” is a poignant way to close the book on a chapter in Lanz’s career that has seen the release of two studio albums, a live CD, and the Liverpool “behind the scenes” DVD. Here Comes the Sun is highly recommended for any Beatle fan who appreciates experiencing their music in a new light. For more information visit David Lanz’s official website.