Jazz + Cabaret + The Beatles = “Michelle”

I always chuckle to myself when I’m in the car and the NYC classic rock radio station plays Beatles like Yellow Submarine, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, and Michelle.

These aren’t rock songs! They’re marches, waltzes, and cabaret songs. If any other band had recorded them, there’s no way this radio station would program these songs. (When’s the last time they’ve played any Charles Aznavour?)

However, I recognize the commercial benefit of categorizing music into rock, jazz, pop, cabaret, folk, etc. And yes, they can sell more music if they pick one category per artist. So be it: The Beatles played a lot of rock and roll so every one of their songs is considered to be “classic rock.”

But they themselves knew better, and we do too. The Beatles didn’t limit themselves in any way, musically. They were truly, as Duke Ellington would say, “beyond category.”

Here’s one of their “beyond category” songs, Michelle. As improvising pianists, we can take the various musical implications of the song, such as its jazz and cabaret overtones, and more fully develop them during our performances than the Beatles did on their recording.

Here are some of the song’s musical possibilities:

Michelle: Complete Beatles Piano #6

There are other possibilities as well. See if you can find them.

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