Beatle Paul McCartney announced Monday that his next album, due out Feb. 7 on Hear Music/Concord Records, will be an album of jazz standards (along with two new McCartney songs) recorded with pianist Diana Krall and her band, a “deeply personal journey through classic American compositions that, in some cases, a young Paul first heard his father perform on piano at home,” according to a release from McCartney’s publicist.
It’s the album McCartney has wanted to make for decades, and, he notes, probably the last thing he fans expected. “In the end it was, ‘Look if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it,” McCartney said.
Why’d it take him so long? Blame Rod Stewart and his never-ending “American Songbook” albums, on which the rocker rasped his way through a boatload of songs from the ’30s and ’40s, with mixed results.
As Jazz Times’ Jeff Tamarkin points out, last spring, McCartney commented to Rolling Stone: “I’ve wanted to do that kind of thing forever, since the Beatle days. But then Rod [Stewart] went mad on it. I thought, ‘I have to wait so it doesn’t look like I’m trying to do a Rod.’”
Perish the thought. For one thing, singing standards isn’t as big a stretch for McCartney as it was and is for Stewart. Macca has always tossed off a throwback ballad or two, and done it well, on most Beatles albums. He crooned unabashedly on the Broadway tune (from “The Music Man” ) “Til There was You,” and songs like “When I’m Sixty-Four” harked back to early 20th century vaudeville in style. He’s written reams of other vintage-inspired songs like “Those Were the Days,” recorded by Mary Hopkin back in the ’60s.
Growing up in Liverpool in the ’40s and ’50s, McCartney was surrounded by big band music and standards, both from radio and because his father Jim was a salesman who moonlighted as a jazz orchestra leader.
“When I kind of got into songwriting, I realized how well structured these songs were and I think I took a lot of my lessons from them,” McCartney said. “I always thought artists like Fred Astaire were very cool. Writers like Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, all of those guys—I just thought the songs were magical.”
By recording some of the songs that inspired him, he also wanted to show fans the genesis of some Lennon & McCartney compositions that he says derived in some ways from specific standards.
Producer Tommy LiPuma helped record the as yet untitled new album at Capitol Studios in L.A., London and New York, and Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder appear on the original compositions “My Valentine” and “Only Our Hearts.”
Here’s a sneak listen of “My Valentine”