European CD reissue.
In the late '60s, many jazz artists were ignoring the rock and soul hits of the day -- when called upon to interpret popular songs, they stuck to their favorite Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Irving Berlin standards and didn't see Beatles or Marvin Gaye hits as vehicles for jazz improvisation. But there were some jazz artists who didn't feel that way; Grant Green, Herbie Mann, and Charles Earland -- just to give three examples -- saw no reason why rock and soul tunes couldn't receive instrumental jazz makeovers. And on 1969, Gazor Szabo puts a jazz spin on popular songs of the 1960s, including "Walk Away Renee" (a major hit for the Left Banke), the Beatles' "In My Life," and Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now."
Again, there were many jazz artists who wouldn't have touched these songs in 1969 -- they would have insisted on providing yet another version of "Our Love Is Here to Stay" or "My Funny Valentine." But Szabo acknowledges that worthwhile popular music didn't die with George Gershwin. The Hungarian guitarist doesn't always stretch out as much as he could on this album; at times, he ends a solo that probably should have lasted a few more minutes. But Szabo still deserves credit for bringing a jazz perspective to songs that so many other improvisers were ignoring.
Alex Henderson ~ AllMusicGuide
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