The Beach Boys’ musical architect was on hand at Spectra in L.A.’s Pacific Design Center on Wednesday night for the unveiling of his forthcoming album “Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin,” due on CD Aug. 17 from the Disney Pearl imprint. The 14-track collection arrives on vinyl a week later, and an LP of the set was played for a herd of press and industry schmoozers on a high-end Sterling Lyngdorf audio set-up.
After an introduction by liner note scribe David Wild in which the writer recalled hearing Wilson perform “Rhapsody in Blue” at an ’80s party in Hollywood, Wilson (who, typically, had little to say) and five members of his working band launched into an acappella version of Gershwin’s 1924 masterwork, which begins and concludes the new collection. And then the record was spun.
Cutting an album of George Gershwin’s music — incorporating two newly penned numbers mating fresh lyrics to previously unpublished Gershwin music — is an act of real chutzpah on the part of Wilson, who claims the late American composer-songwriter as a role model. Singers from Fred Astaire to Frank Sinatra have memorably interpreted Gershwin’s songs since the 1920s, and albums devoted to his work, from the Miles Davis/Gil Evans “Porgy and Bess” to “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook,” have entered the canon of great recordings. Wilson has many a hard act to follow.