Django Bates with The Frankfurt Radio Big Band

Released July 7, 2017

Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2017




The totally irrepressible creativity and ever-unconventional spirit of Django Bates swings into a completely new and unpredicted sphere. In collaboration with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band and Eggs Laid By Tigers, Django has reimagined the seminal Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the most significant Rock album of all time.

Up until now the idea of Django exploring the Beatles catalogue would have been met with an emphatic no. However the opportunity to celebrate the 50th anniversary of an album that is a landmark musically and culturally was a challenge he couldn’t resist.

As Django explains: ‘My meeting with Sergeant Pepper came when I bought the album for my elder sister’s eighteenth birthday. An excellent gift. Through the closed door of her bedroom I would catch sonic glimpses… What a wealth of sounds, genres, effects, surprises, very generously scattered with words of madness and sanity’.

With his overpoweringly creative spirit, his anarchic sense of humour and his incredible level of musicality, approaching the arrangement process with a manifesto of ‘Freedom, not Licence’, Django’s work is typically inventive and visionary. Holding on to the original structures and keys, he gracefully folds his own colours, rhythms and sound into the music, resulting in a thoroughly kaleidoscopic examination of this iconic album.

This music was commissioned by the Frankfurt Radio Big Band. Commission partners are the Norrbotten Big Band (Sweden), the Danish Radio Big Band, and the UMO Jazz Orchestra (Finland), joining in a spirit of international cooperation, some 50 years after the original summer of love.

Liner Notes (by Django Bates)

I was born in 1960 into a house that resounded to the sounds of jazz, african, and gypsy music, (with occasional sprinklings of Schnittke). There was almost no culture of Pop in our home – you could say my parents considered that to be the Devil’s music.

At the age of eight, due to a bizarre ban on cycling to school, I abruptly changed from a “normal” school to one based on the “Freedom, not Licence” principle as exemplified by A.S Neill’s Summerhill School. My new place of learning was called Kirkdale and it unapologetically celebrated Hippiedom. How wonderful for a boy suddenly to have teachers who were as childish, eccentric, and anarchic as the pupils. I use the word “pupils” advisedly as there were virtually no lessons. We just played around in mud and set fire to things.

Two good things came from this experience: I was allowed to strum a guitar for as long as I liked and whenever I liked, for a period of three years. I didn’t learn much about the guitar but I learnt that it’s ok just to play your life away. And secondly, Kirkdale introduced me to a very different kind of music from my home sounds: the psychedelic and carefree experimentation of hippies. First they played me Abbey Road…

Using cardboard boxes in my bedroom, I had played “drums” with everyone from zulu choirs to Davy Graham, from New Orleans Jug Bands to Mingus. I now became Ringo’s co-drummer as the five bar chorus of She’s So Heavy crashed into my consciousness.

My meeting with Sergeant Pepper came a little later on when I bought the album for my elder sister’s eighteenth birthday. An excellent gift. Through the closed door of her bedroom I would catch sonic glimpses… What a wealth of sounds, genres, effects, surprises, very generously scattered with words of madness and sanity.

I left school as soon as I could and became a musician.

Whenever asked whether I could imagine arranging anything by The Beatles I’ve always given an emphatic “No”. So it was a surprise to hear myself giving an instant “Yes” to the invitation to arrange Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the Frankfurt Radio Big Band. Twenty-Seventeen being the album’s 50th anniversary gave it meaning and anyway you never know how you will act in an emergency until one confronts you for real. For this enterprise I chose the path of “Freedom, not Licence”. I held to the original structures and keys; each song has good vibrations that millions have grown up with and, for all I know, these sounds and key relationships may have become a common memory that is passed through our genes to each new generation.

Before interweaving my colours, rhythms, and illustrations, I transcribed every bar through my own ears. I had heard that there is a book of transcriptions available but it felt essential to build on a personal reading of the album. When you listen repeatedly, in detail, you hear layer upon layer of work, all the way down to half hidden subterranean shadows of experiments which became over-written by the final needs of each song. The sum of all these layers is a masterwork of writing, playing, recording, mixing, and mastering. So, fifty years on from the original, please join us in an exploration and celebration of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and a much needed memory of the Summer of Love.

Django Bates (Bern, 2017)

Track Listing:

1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (John Lennon / Paul McCartney) 1:56

2. With a Little Help From My Friends (John Lennon / Paul McCartney) 2:47

solo: Tony Lakatos

3. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds (John Lennon / Paul McCartney) 3:48

solo: Tony Lakatos

4. Getting Better (John Lennon / Paul McCartney) 3:59

solo: Tony Lakatos

5. Fixing a Hole (John Lennon / Paul McCartney) 3:20

solo: Martin Scales, Django

6. She’s Leaving Home (John Lennon / Paul McCartney) 3:39

7. Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite! (John Lennon / Paul McCartney) 2:33

8. Within You Without You (George Harrison) 5:46

solo: Stuart Hall

9. When I’m Sixty Four (John Lennon / Paul McCartney) 2:51

10. Lovely Rita (John Lennon / Paul McCartney) 2:59

solo: Django

11. Good Morning Good Morning (John Lennon / Paul McCartney) 2:48

solo: Django

12. Sgt.Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (John Lennon / Paul McCartney) 2:16

solo: Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn, Stuart Hall 13. A Day in the Life (John Lennon / Paul McCartney) 6:35


Django Bates: keyboard, backing vocals, arranger, conductor
Stuart Hall: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, lap steel, electric sitar, violin

Eggs Laid By Tigers
Martin Ullits Dahl: lead vocal
Jonas Westergaard: electric bass, backing vocals
Peter Bruun: drums, percussion, backing vocals

Frankfurt Radio Big Band (hr-Bigband)
Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn: soprano sax, flute, clarinet
Oliver Leicht: alto sax, flute, clarinet, alto clarinet
Tony Lakatos: tenor sax, flute
Steffen Weber: tenor sax, alto flute, bass clarinet
Rainer Heute: baritone sax, bass sax, bass clarinet, contra alto clarinet
Frank Wellert: trumpet
Thomas Vogel: trumpet
Martin Auer: trumpet, flugelhorn
Axel Schlosser: trumpet, flugelhorn
Günter Bollmann: trombone
Peter Feil: trombone
Christian Jaksjø: trombone
Jan Schreiner: bass trombone
Martin Scales: electric guitar

Recorded October 2016, Hörfunkstudio II, Hessischer Rundfunk (hr), Frankfurt/Main Produced by Django Bates & Tim Adnitt
Executive Producer: Olaf Stötzler
Recording Producer: Axel Gutzler
Recording Engineer: Michael Wayszak
Mixed by Tim Adnitt in London
Mastered by Ray Staff at Air Mastering, Lyndhurst Hall, London


A heady brew of Beatles, Bates and beefy big band, Saluting Sgt. Pepper could easily have been one seriously over-egged concoction. But though we are whisked away on a Wurlitzer of multi-tracked voices and instrumentation, Bates and the assembled masses have pulled off a master stroke of wit and imagination delivered with discipline. What holds it together is that Bates has remained loyal to the original album’s concept: the arrangements are essentially the same, as is the running order, preserving the flow of one song into another. Bates has also retained familiar musical coat hooks from the original that orient us throughout the project, like Ringo’s fills, that meat and potatoes piano, all the vocals (a heroic performance from Dahl). But around those loved elements, Bates interleaves colours and rhythmic reinventions that complement the songs while maintaining a deep respect, and, crucially, an even deeper affection for the music and the emotions it evokes. Somehow Bates finds musical equivalents for the studio effects (most obviously on that iconic close to ‘A Day In The Life’), sometimes he joyously builds on what’s already there (a choir of clarinets on ‘When I’m 64’), or he cheekily inserts, as with the extra beat in ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. Because it’s so tightly visioned, there’s little room for the band to stretch out, except on the reprise of ‘Lonely Hearts Club Band’, which kicks in funky and dirty. But all that does is make you want to hear how special this could be live.

Andy Robson (Jazzwise)