Mike Tomaro has become a believer in the Beatles.
“I have been a typical jazz snob as far as the Beatles are concerned,” says the director of jazz studies at Duquesne University. “Like most jazz people, I didn’t like them because we thought they were ruining pop music by getting people to listen to things other than jazz.”
But the Fab Four frenzy of his daughters — Natalie, 16, and Andrea, 13 — has opened his mind to their music. That new-found appreciation has led him to focus on “The Music of the Beatles” for the annual concert of the school’s jazz ensemble March 14 on campus.
He admits he is open mostly to their music from “Rubber Soul,” “Revolver” and beyond. That stretch is when many see the Beatles turning from pop moptops to actual music men.
The concert will feature new Tomaro arrangements, as well as some faculty members of the school: singer Maureen Budway, guitarists Bill Purse, Mark Koch and Ken Karsh, and trombonist Ed Kocher, the music dean.
Tomaro says the music fits the skills of those faculty members well. It allows him to combine “Please, Please Me” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” in an arrangement, provides “She’s Leaving Home” as a vocal vehicle for Budway, and offers Karsh a medley of “I Follow the Sun” and “Here Comes the Sun.”
The concert also will feature Natalie and Andrea Tomaro, who will act as hostesses.
“I’ve been working with them on their job, because they could talk forever on the Beatles if they get a chance,” Tomaro says with a laugh.
His study of the Beatles has led to a major change in his thinking.
“There is some music I consider sacred,” he says. “Like Billy Strayhorn’s. But now I feel the same about the Beatles.”
He says he sees many uses of odd meters and clever harmonics in the works of the post- “Rubber Soul” Beatles. Many of those fit structures that are comfortable to him as a jazz arranger, but he says this concert will not be a “jazz meets the Beatles.”
He is planning on such a show as a sequel, but he wants this show to be more about a new way to look at some well-known songs. For the ensemble’s students, it will illustrate a commercial way to play music. For listeners, it will present a different way to listen to those songs.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected] or 412-320-7852.