George Harrison’s fabulous musical legacy lives on in the band All Things Must Pass, fronted by Austrian-born jazz drummer Alex Eberhard (The Brunswick, Hove, May 6 and 7).
The band has taken Alex away from his drumming and put him back on the guitar where he started.
“The band came together about two and a half years ago,” Alex explains. “I was a George Harrison fan since I was 13 back in Austria when I started playing guitar. I got into The Beatles and started playing, and for me George Harrison was the obvious choice. Pretty soon, I got the album All Things Must Pass, and I just played it constantly.”
The triple album was a massive outpouring of Harrison music, much of it composed during his Beatles years.
When he was 16, however, Alex trained classically and in jazz: “I became more or less a jazz drummer, but then really I just rediscovered my old love of George Harrison when I watched the Concert for George at the Royal Albert Hall in 2002, which was organised by Eric Clapton a year after George died. I watched the DVD, and it just blew me away seeing so many musicians sharing the stage. I thought I would love to do that, and obviously realised you couldn’t do it with a small band. I knew that it had to be a big band to do his work justice: three guitarists so the sweet slide guitar harmony parts can be played live; saxophone and trombone for all those lovely riffs; and two female vocalists in addition to a solid rhythm section. Most of the people are musicians I have worked with in the jazz world.
“George Harrison would have been the first to say he was not a virtuoso player like Eric Clapton, but his slide-guitar playing, the more I try to do it, the more I respect him for what he did.”
Here Comes the Sun remains a Harrison high spot: “But I think he was also very interesting for his rhythmic patterns. He used unusual shapes that probably came from his Indian influences. He has also got quirky metre changes where you have suddenly got bars of 3/4 in there, plus also a lot of chords, a lot of diminished chords, that you wouldn’t normally expect in rock and pop.”
As a song-writer, Harrison was very much underrated, Alex believes – and the production is terrific: “We have got a trombone player in the band who was a young session player back in the late ’60s and early ’70s. He was on the original All Things Must Pass album. He didn’t meet George Harrison, but he met Phil Spector who was producing it. He was called in as a session player, and there were nine brass players all playing the same line. He thought at the time that it wasn’t very economical, but then again, at the time, he just wasn’t aware of what a massive thing the album was.”
Alex and the band spent a long time rehearsing before they started gigging, to be sure they were getting it right: “We did our first proper run of gigs last year. The plan is to take it into the theatre circuit nationwide and maybe even beyond.
“Maybe it won’t be as easy to get people in as it would be for a Beatles tribute, but we would distance ourselves from being a tribute band. It is much more about being a celebration of George Harrison’s music than trying to look like him and putting on wigs and trying to adopt mannerisms.”