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Beatles jazz and this week’s picks

If I played video games, I’d play “The Beatles: Rock Band,” released earlier this week on what is now being called International Beatles Day: 9/9/09.

If I played video games, I’d play “The Beatles: Rock Band,” released earlier this week on what is now being called International Beatles Day: 9/9/09. Somehow their songs never age and never reach the maximum number of plays (the point at which you realize, “If I hear that even one more time, I might throw up”).

The Lennon/McCartney songbook has become a mother lode for jazz musicians, both vocalists and instrumentalists. My own playlist includes versions of “Yesterday” by Wynton Kelly and Chris Potter, jazzy takes on “Blackbird” by Brad Mehldau and Connie Evingson, Patricia Barber’s moody “Norwegian Wood,” Geoff Keezer’s “Across the Universe,” a soulful interpretation of “The Long and Winding Road” sung by Brother Ray Charles with the Count Basie Orchestra, and many more.

Evingson has recorded a whole CD of Beatles tunes called “Let It Be … Jazz.” Pianist David Kikoski and drummer Brian Melvin have made four “BeatleJazz” CDs.

If you’re interested in jazz covers of Beatles songs, bookmark these:

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“All Their Loving: Jazz Covers The Beatles.” Six interpretations of the band’s classics by Ramsey Lewis, Herbie Hancock, Count Basie and others, including an extremely odd “Rocky Raccoon” by Lena Horne.

“The Dozens: Jazz Perspectives on The Beatles.” Thoughtful comments on tracks by Dr. Lonnie Smith, Buddy Rich, Mark Turner and more.

“Fab Four Jazz: The Beatles and Jazz in the 1960s.” An hour-long program of early jazz interpretations produced for Indiana Public Media’s “Night Lights” radio program.

Jazz happens eight days a week in the Twin Cities. A few suggestions from me to you:

Lucia Newell. For the annual Concrete and Grass music festival in St. Paul’s Lowertown, singer Lucia Newell created a special program showcasing her diverse interests and talents. “Lucia Newell: Bossa, Bebop and Ballads” will feature three distinct sets: Brazilian music and Brazilian-influenced tunes, bebop charts and standards with a bop feel, and ballads. All sets will include original tunes. Newell is an elegant and enchanting performer, a great favorite among jazz fans. Her birthday tribute to Betty Carter back in May was a knockout. See a piece of it here. With Laura Caviani on piano, Gordon Johnson on bass, Kenny Horst on drums. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 11 and 12, Artists’ Quarter ($10).

Jose James. South High graduate Jose James once had a regular gig at Fireside Pizza with his former teacher Denny Malmberg. He was a semifinalist in the 2004 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition and a hit at this year’s Detroit Jazz Festival and the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in New York City. (Writing for the New York Times, Ben Ratliff dubbed James’ performance “the strongest of the day.”) Hear him sing “Little Bird” with the Berlin-based Jazzanova. James is part of the remarkable Late Nite Series at Pillsbury House Theater where, for $10 ($5 for students/seniors), you can have a meal and enjoy performances by artists from an array of disciplines. He’s joined by bassist Chris Smith, pianist Gideon Van Gelder, and drummer Brandon Commodore. Read more about the series hereSaturday, Sept. 12, 8 p.m. (food), 9 p.m. (music). Pillsbury House Theater, 3501 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis ($10/$5).

Mary Louise Knutson: Making Sense of Jazz. Many people stay away from jazz because they think it’s hard to understand. But you don’t have to know that much about it to start enjoying the creativity, excitement and sheer musicality of jazz. Pianist/composer Knutson’s 75-minute program (with audience participation) will make you feel like an expert. If you’re curious about jazz, if you want to broaden your horizons as an arts and music lover, give this a try. Saturday, Sept. 12, 7 p.m., St. Barnabas Center for the Arts, 15600 Old Rockford Road, Plymouth ($10 adults/$7 Twin Cities Jazz Society members/$5 students).

Pamela Espeland keeps a Twin Cities live jazz calendar and blogs about jazz at Bebopified. She tweets about jazz on Twitter.