Deviating From The Norm

Bruce Von Stiers

Wayne Alpern is a jazz composer and arranger. He has been known for taking well recognized songs and developing unique arrangements of them.

Such is the case in Alpern's latest project. It is an album titled Standard Deviation. Alpern takes several songs from the pop and rock and even folk music arenas and adds a slightly different twist to them.

Standard Deviation has ten songs and a play time of just under an hour. The album was recorded at the Bunker Studio in Brooklyn, New York City. It is being self released.

Alpern brought together several established musicians to play the songs on the album. Owen Broder plays alto sax and clarinet on the album. He is also the musical director for the album. Broder is a member of the quartet, Cowboys & Frenchmen, whose album Rodeo I reviewed a few years ago. Aside from teaching jazz at a Kansas City area college, Adam Larson has recorded several albums and has played with several notable ensembles. He plays tenor sax on this album. Jon Challoner is on trumpet. Besides leading his own quintet, Challoner has played on several other artist's albums. On trombone is Nick Grinder. He's played with musicians such as Wycliffe Gordon and has performed at venues such as Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. Playing violin on the album was Benjamin Sutin. He was a featured soloist on several songs on a recent album by Grant Colvin Weston. In the past, Matt Podd has worked with Barbra Streisand and Steven Van Zandt. He plays piano on this album. Having supported such artists as Herbie Hancock, Dave Baron lends his talent on bass to this album. In addition to playing drums on this album, Nathan Ellman-Bell was also part of the recent Snack Cat album.

Although this is pretty much an instrumental album, there are a bit of vocals on it. Helping out on vocals is 2Nick8, who has done vocals for Gowri along with his own music. D'Layna has worked the international DJ scene along with several projects. She does some of the vocal work that appears on this album. Also helping out on vocals is Jeff Burnige.

The album opens with a cool rendition of Thriller. I've heard the Michael Jackson song done a couple of times by other artists. Alpern's arrangement keeps a lot of the original beat along with some slices of his own styling.

An interesting song to have included on the album is Ode To Billie Joe. It has a distinct jazz intro and the body of the song mixes the original musical content of the Bobbie Gentry song with cool horn, drum and violin music.

Another interesting song for the album is Bob Dylan's Dear Landlord. It has some fun horn, piano and drum, with occasional vocal input by D'Layna.

Journey is one of my favorite classic rock bands. Their song Don't Stop Believin' is exceptionally done on the album. It has great violin, with the other instruments complementing it. Jeff Burnige does a bit of vocals on the song as well.

Katy Perry had a huge hit with Teenage Dream. Alpren gives the song a subtler touch with a great horn arrangement.

She's Not There was a hit for The Zombies back in 1964. Alpern gives it a more solid jazz sound with some great horn sounds. There is some slick violin in it as well. It also has a tiny bit of vocals by 2Nick8.

I've been a fan of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons since I was a kid. One of their bests songs was Who Loves You Pretty Baby. Alpern didn't change much in his arrangement of the song for this album. There was some really good trumpet in the song.

A little bit subtler than the original, there is a pretty decent instrumental version of the Gotye song Somebody I Used To Know. It has some great horn music and nice violin.

Then there is a nice rendition of the Bob Dylan song, As I Went Out This Morning.

The album closes with a terrific rendition of the classic Temptations song, My Girl.

From Journey to Bob Dylan and point's in-between, Wayne Alpern has indeed put together some unique and appealing arrangements of great pop, rock and folk styled songs.

Standard Deviation can be heard on platforms such as Spotify and purchased through several music outlets.

To learn more about Standard Deviation, visit Wayne Alpern's official web site at


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© 2020 Bruce E Von Stiers