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  • Jonathan Widran

DAVID LANZ, Songs From an English Garden

As David Lanz demonstrates Songs From an English Garden, his first ambition in life was to be a rock & roll pianist based on the music he grew up with in the '60s. Having done brilliant orchestral, rock, and solo piano versions of Moody Blues, Procol Harum, and Beatles classics throughout his discography, this colorful new tribute to the British Invasion can be seen as simply an extension, a case of the more, the merrier.

No doubt his main obstacle laid in not creating muzak versions of these well worn hits, and his arrangements -- and use of unusual instrumentation and vibrant guest shots by Dave Koz and Herb Alpert -- reflect careful respect on his part. Lanz plays Peralta bells, for instance, on a percussive take of the Hollies' "Bus Stop," and creates a staccato, stop and start effect combining piano and orchestra. He asks original Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher to add a touch of blues to the castanet clapping Latin vibe of that band's hit "Conquistador" and swings through a brassy rendition of "Tuesday Afternoon," alternating ivory registers (as the original did) and adding the '70s touch of the Wurlitzer electric piano.

Dealing with simple melodies like "I'll Follow the Sun" and "Ferry Cross the Mersey," he also creates original passages that introduce the main tune, while stripping down to basics on a poignant rendition of "Strawberry Fields Forever." That same tender grace characterizes the original title track as well as the other original piece, the rainy day portrait "London Blue," which provides an appropriate setting for some of British rock's most beloved treasures.

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