Wrangling the songs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney into a cohesive cabaret show is a daunting prospect. Which songs, which stories, how does one create worthy accompaniment with just a few musicians? Marissa Mulder has conquered the first two of these issues; MD/pianist Jon Weber, ably aided and abetted by Mike Rosengarten and Ritt Henn (guitar, bass, back-up vocals) conquered the third.
Mulder is invested. When she heard her parents’ Beatles records, the songs landed differently than they did to those of us who grew up during the era. I’ll Follow the Sun brings unexpected freshness to iconic material. The vocalist helps us reconsider lyrics and sentiments long taken for granted. Three musicians playing deeply textured arrangements sound like at least an eight-piece band.
We learn how John and Paul met and connected at a garden festival in 1957. They were respectively 16 and 15. Paul apparently admired John’s charisma. Anecdotes are few and well placed, often including quotes. (George Harrison joined the band in 1958; Ringo Starr not until 1962.)
A few numbers in, Mulder jumps to the group’s 1968 visit to India where they studied under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. (One song from the interim might have helped the continuity.) The trip yielded some 48 new songs. John cited “Across the Universe” as his best lyric because “the words stand alone. You could pick it up on a piece of paper and read it as a poem.” With palms on her thighs, the vocalist immerses herself in a cloud of meditative visions: “Jai Guru Deva, Om/Nothing’s gonna change my world” she sings, making the lyric pristine and incantory.
“I’m So Tired” is tied to John’s long-distance communication with Yoko Ono. Beginning with only a resonant bass, the song arrives weighted, deeply breathed. Mulder stretches as if the air around her grows soporific; defined meter shifts are beautifully handled.
Jon Weber on piano, Ritt Henn on bass, Mike Rosengarten on guitar live at Feinstein's 54 Below
Jon Weber on piano, Ritt Henn on bass and Mike Rosengarten on guitar. Live at Feinstein's 54