“And I Love Her”: A Critical Analysis of Covers

Brad Mehldau has a reputation for building beautiful piano trio versions of pop songs, notably including a lot of Beatles material. His trio release from earlier this year, Blues & Ballads, includes a fantastic version of “And I Love Her” with Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard. More recently, Gilad Hekselman, Petros Klampanis, and Ziv Ravitz played a trio concert with that they’ve titled Across the Rooftop featuring their takes on Beatles tunes. They’re releasing the videos from that concert one song at a time, starting with “Across the Universe” and most recently releasing their own version of “And I Love Her”. So it seems that these two independently conceived of versions of the tune are worth a listen, no?

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Hekselman, Ravitz, and Klampanis open their version of “And I Love Her” with a stop-start groove over quarter notes from the bass. They slowly move toward the tune’s melody and then at about 0:35, Hekselman’s guitar plays the melody while Ravitz’s drums dance on and around the beat. He begins to add more and more accents from the ride cymbals and hi-hat while Klampanis’ bass largely holds a steady walking quarter note bassline. Nice little breakdown at about 1:30 before they move into another verse, with Hekselman adding some nice accents and chords between the melody’s phrases. At about 2:00, they’ve moved into a guitar solo. Ravitz breaks down the drumming to some relatively minimal stuff at first, then builds behind the guitar solo, with Klampanis holding down the center while the drums and guitar spiral outward. At 3:00, Hekselman’s soloing continues with more and more action from Ravitz behind the solo, really making the drums’ presence felt. A nice descending line from Hekselman at about 3:40 in this beautiful solo that is full of these great lines. Ravitz just killing it behind the guitar at 4:15 or so… At 4:50 they break it down to a feature for Ravitz on the drums, with Klampanis and Hekselman loosely playing the “And I Love Her” melody. Building up the tune again at about 6:15 before they move into a proper drum solo starting around 6:30, with the guitar and bass doubling up. Ravitz has been adding a lot to this version throughout and here takes the opportunity to really move around this rhythm and do his thing while the guitar and bass hold it together. By 8:00 they’re all moving toward a conclusion and they end on a sustained note from the guitar as the drum solo comes to a close. Beautiful playing from everyone with a great solo from Hekselman, solid playing from Klampanis on the bass to hold down the harmony and the rhythm throughout this tune, and Ravitz stealing the show with a drum solo to close and great playing throughout behind the melody and guitar solo.

The Brad Mehldau trio opens their version of “And I Love Her” by building a beautiful space that you could live in… this opening is really something, just hinting at the Beatles tune while building their own thing. Knowing that this will lead into “And I Love Her”, the tune is clearly hinted at, but when hearing this for the first time in the context of the album, this opening is just perfect. Anyway, just before 1:00, Mehldau brings in the tune’s main melody, heavy on the sustain pedal and keeping this beautiful mood going while Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard provide support and very patiently build the momentum behind this. Bringing it back down around 2:00, they move into a second verse. Key change at 2:30 or so and a slight mood shift comes along with that. Throughout these verses, Mehldau brings in some slight dissonance and interesting harmonies that add something extra to the already lovely melody. At 3:30, they’ve moved into a piano solo with the drums and bass supporting. While the spotlight is clearly on the piano, there is some nice interaction with Grenadier and Ballard – check the response to Ballard’s toms at about 4:00 for instance. Mehldau’s digging in at 5:00 or so with some longer runs while keeping the “And I Love Her” melody intact. At 5:30 they bring it back down to the tune proper, with the drums and bass backing off as they return to the verse. At 6:20 still playing the main melody but Ballard’s ride cymbal is pushing a bit and Mehldau’s piano starts to add some more in between the phrases. By 7:00 or so they’ve moved into a nice jam with all three members of the trio really pushing this. Some nice melodic improvisation from Mehldau here, really ear-catching stuff just before 8:00 and then some heavy sustain on the chords at 8:10 or so. Around 8:45 hinting back at the “And I Love Her” melody, and then shortly after that they bring this version to a close. Really lovely playing from this band throughout. Mehldau is clearly the leader, and the spotlight is largely on the piano, but the interaction among the band members is fantastic throughout as they built this to two separate climaxes, keeping the Beatles melody intact while really pushing the improvisation.

This isn’t intended (at all) to cover all the different versions of this tune, just these two very recently released versions. A quick bit of online searching will tell you that Pat Metheny has done a version of “And I Love Her”, as has Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Ramsey Lewis, Kevin Hays, and Sarah Vaughan, among others. That said, just listening to these two versions of “And I Love Her” show that the Lennon/McCartney tune has a ton to offer for jazz artists.

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