“Come Together”: Askren and Benedict turn Beatles’ classic into jazz

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Jazz performers, Dave Askren and Jeff Benedict, cover “Come Together” by The Beatles. This is not the duo’s first time turning classic rock into jazz. They have also taken on Hendrix (see video). The result is deeply textured jazz that could appeal to fans of both genres.

The allure of “Come Together”

Ever since The Beatles released “Come Together” in 1969, cover versions have populated radio airwaves. Bands across genres, from The Eurythmics to Godsmack, to Joe Cocker, Aerosmith, and Kate Bush, to name several, have fallen for the cryptic lyrics and low, sneering guitar work. The only thing listeners are sure of is the call to “come together/right now.” We don’t even know to what “over me” refers. Yet, many of us know the words and shout them gleefully.

The irony is that John Lennon’s vocals are fairly high on this song. But successful cover versions involve grittier, lower vocals. At this point, Godsmack has the best cover version of “Come Together,” as far as rock bands go. I am not sure too many jazz groups have covered the song. Another way in which Askren and Benedict are unique is their willingness to tackle unexpected projects.

David Askren’s and Jeff Benedict’s take on “Come Together”

Unlike cover versions by rock and pop bands, Askren’s and Benedict’s take does not attempt any rock and roll hijinks to get listeners to pay attention. From the first note until the last, “Come Together” as done by Askren and Benedict remains a jazz song.

The duo performs with two friends to form a quartet. Benedict plays saxophone, Askren plays guitar, Joe Bagg plays organ, and Paul Romain plays drums. Their version of “Come Together” is softer. The shaker percussion is still there. However, this jazz version is an instrumental. Benedict’s saxophone takes the vocal line. The organ offers the song as close to a gritty element as it is going to get. The guitar plays bright and smooth, but the saxophone and organ are the showcased instruments.

In addition to being softer, Askren’s and Benedict’s “Come Together” is also longer. The group allows for improvisation that involves extending passages. At more than eight minutes long, it more than twice as long as the original, more than enough time for artful expression.

Unlike what Askren and Benedict have done with rock music and jazz in the past, audiences shouldn’t expect anything that sounds like the original. They can however, respect what has been done with a rock classic. “Come Together” as a jazz song takes on a life and an attitude of its own. That is better than cover songs of any genre that don’t attempt to add anything new to the original. Askren and Benedict prove that originality counts, regardless of genre. Audiences should respect that.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana. She has BA and MA degrees in English and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger’s Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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