Aug. 15, 1965. Having traveled by helicopter to the site of the World's Fair in Flushing Meadow Park, Queens, four shaggy-headed Brits board an armored car for their ride to the recently opened Shea Stadium. Sixty thousand crazed teenagers await them. The foursome only plays a 30-minute set, but it changes American music forever.
Jazz is no exception. Up until the British Invasion, songwriters dominated the industry. Singers and instrumentalists competed to record their own arrangements of the day's hits — what we now call "covers." That system gradually collapsed. How would jazz musicians interpret new songs that were so closely associated with their creators? And what would they find to fuel improvisation without the fertile harmonies of the old standards?
It's been a long and winding road. Arguably, it took well into the 1990s before the developments of '60s rock were comfortably absorbed into the jazz tradition. The further we've come, the more musicians have been able to find their own voices within the creations of the Fab Four. Starting with some early attempts, here are five benchmarks along the way.
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