Improvisational Arts Council

The Dragon's Den

July 04, 2004

“They said it couldn’t be done…and it couldn’t!”

Words from the Improvisational Arts Council as they finished covering the first half of The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” at The Dragon’s Den Sunday night. The jazz band’s version of the 1967 LP was actually enjoyable, especially since they extended each song into an improvisational jam. The trippy album was perfect fodder for the psychedelic fusion band. They were bassist Dr. James P. Walsh, flutist Janna Saslaw, guitarist Mark Fowler, drummer Endre Landsnes, keyboardist Eric Shuman, and projector John Worthington.

This was the band’s vocal debut, and it showed. Singing while playing threw the group off their game, but during instrumental expanses, they were a delight. The band is very talented, but they were underdogs from the start. Every nook and cranny of the music is so well known that if they changed anything, people like me were bound to scratch their head in confusion like they just deleted bible verses. But, I had to have an open mind. With bass notes a many and different meters, they performed a faithful rendition of the album.

Walsh brushed off a technically amazing bass solo, and Landsnes did a great job of mixing his own brisk free-form style with Ringo Starr’s established licks. Landsnes paid tribute to Starr by mimicking a drum fill. Saslaw was beside herself in joy at times through the set, looking around to see if anybody else wanted to sing along. She shared vocal duties with Walsh and Fowler.

Worthington controlled the light patterns projected against the wall behind the band as they played. One half of the projection formed according to the music, and the other half Worthington created with patterns and images. The funniest moment of the night was when Worthington used images of George W. Bush during “I Am The Walrus.”

A fun night. It was great to hear and sing along to those songs, and it was rewarding to hear them successfully covered in a different genre. Kudos.

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