ONLY at a jazz festival would a New Orleans second-line beat mix with John Lennon's Whatever Gets You Through The Night, and make sense.
Drummer Mark Kelso opened the tune, the closing number of the concert tribute to Lennon's music, with an infectious beat that he and bassist Roberto Occhipinti held down like a couple of Big Easy stalwarts to anchor the song that was one of the highlights of the show.
Elizabeth Shepherd shone as the lead vocalist on the song, part of a new CD that evolved from a 2010 concert marking the 30th anniversary of Lennon's death.
Guitarist Michael Occhipinti, the man behind the project, easily got in the groove with his brother and Kelso and played an excellent solo as Shepherd, Yvette Tollar and Dominic Mancuso sang the popular song.
You also wouldn't expect a trumpet in the front line of a Lennon appreciation, but Kevin Turcotte, on trumpet and flugelhorn, was a key part of the band's success Tuesday night at the TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival.
They turned Whatever into a singalong at the end, just before the band members left the stage one by one and marched to the lobby of the West End Cultural Centre to meet audience members and sign CDs.
There's no doubt Lennon wrote many great songs, marked both by the use of the latest (for the time) recording techniques and for the simplicity of their sound. Across The Universe was a case in point. Great singing and keyboard playing by Shepherd and a fine muted trumpet solo made it a success.
The opener, I Am The Walrus, didn't fare as well. The vocals seemed a bit stilted and attempts to approximate the orchestration of the original didn't work as well here as in other songs.
Tollar's lead vocal on Beautiful Boy and Julia were very good; evocative and simple, expressing the heart-felt emotion of the songs.
Mancuso is a fine enough singer, but his rock singer posturing in songs like Instant Karma We All Shine On and Girl detracted somewhat from the overall performance. He fared better on Don't Let Me Down.
Michael Occhipinti introduced I'm Only Sleeping by explaining that Lennon was "an innovative guitar player" and incorporated effects such as tape being played backwards in the song. Occhipinti lived up to his boast that "I'm a pretty good backwards guitar player."
The TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival runs until June 23 at various venues with remaining mainstage acts Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, June 21; and Booker T. Jones, June 23. Club shows take place at seven locations, featuring 40 acts. Free concerts run at noon in Old Market Square today through Friday.
Ticket information and schedule are available at jazzwinnipeg.com
Shine On: The Universe of John Lennon
TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival
West End Cultural Centre
3 1/2 stars out of 5