Beach Boy Al Jardine brings trio format to City Winery
Al Jardine, with Matt Jardine and Jeff Alan Ross, performs "Sloop John B"
Al Jardine’s current Al Jardine--A Postcard from California--From the Very First Song with a Founding Member of the Beach Boys tour, as evidenced by its Sunday night installment at City Winery, is revelatory in that it allows Jardine to display his individuality as an artist and personality after having been subsumed so long in a legendary vocal group context.
Turns out Jardine is both immensely talented and likable on his own in a show that as the title suggests, spans his historic work with the Beach Boys up through his 2010 solo album A Postcard from California. Accompanied vocally by his son Matt Jardine and vocally and instrumentally by keyboardist/guitarist Jeff Alan Ross, guitarist/bassist Jardine casually delivered the key songs along with the stories behind them.
He started at the beginning, with “Surfin’” (1961) and “Surfin’ Safari” (1962)—the first Beach Boys singles. Switching from upright to electric bass for the latter, Jardine related that the group was essentially “lyricizing” the surf guitar instrumentals of the time, and that while he’d rented a single snare drum for the initial recording session, he forgot sticks, forcing Brian Wilson to drum out the beat with his index finger since future Beach Boys drummer (and brother) Dennis Wilson hadn’t yet learned to play.
Jardine said, too, that Brian had actually written “Surfin’” as a Hawthorne High School assignment and received an “F” for it (a travesty righted earlier this year at the school when the grade was upped to an “A”). He then performed “Surfer Girl,” which he said was one of his favorite songs by Brian, and “Little Deuce Coupe,” on which the Beach Boys played the instruments “before the Wrecking Crew came around and wrecked everything!”—this, of course, a joke about the legendary Los Angeles session players who played on most of the Beach Boys’ later recordings since the group was so busy touring.
“Don’t Worry Baby”—“our answer to ‘Be My Baby,’” said Jardine--brought forth some much-deserved applause to Matt Jardine, who had clearly paid attention to his father’s group growing up, as his approximation of Brian Wilson’s singular vocal parts were very near if not perfect.
Then again, so were the three-piece replications of even the most densely textured later Beach Boys hits like “I Get Around,” “Heroes and Villains,” and “Good Vibrations”—for which Matt Jardine even managed to vocally duplicate the theremin part.
“Sloop John B,” though, was tendered in an arrangement closer to that of the Kingston Trio, which had inspired Brian Wilson’s Beach Boys take. It was also accompanied by overhead screen projections of Jardine’s 2005 children’s book Sloop John B: A Pirate’s Tale.
Jardine’s best story preceded his performance of the lesser-known Beach Boys gem “Vegetables” (from 1967’s Smiley Smile), when he revealed that Brian had ordered a “truckload” of varied vegetables, which were then mashed and poured into the studio—which had been thoroughly enveloped in protective plastic—in order to provide an optimal recording environment for the song’s subject.
Noteworthy, too, were the encores, “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “Barbara Ann,” and especially “Help Me, Rhonda,” since it’s one of the rare Beach Boys songs on which Jardine sang lead.
Ross, who’s long led Peter Asher’s band in his similar Musical Memoir of the 60s and Beyond shows, was completely at home in the Beach Boys context, and after soliciting questions from the audience, asked Jardine the best one: What was it like working with Annette Funicello? He was referring to the group’s backing of Funicello singing the theme song, in the movie, of the 1965 Disney film The Monkey’s Uncle, the segment screened overhead.
It turns out that Jardine didn’t even meet her, as he was gone immediately after the three-minute take--it being a movie production. He did suggest, though, that Dennis Wilson might have been luckier.