White Album Ensemble performs Beatles classics with string and horn sections. (video)

Terms like “cover band” and “tribute band” are often attached to The White Album Ensemble, but neither accurately represents the Santa Cruz group’s performances.

A cover band performs the music of other artists, while tribute bands strive to not only perform the music of another band, but to look and sound just like the band they are paying tribute to.

The White Album Ensemble was established in 2003 with the intention of performing the Beatles’ elaborately produced White Album as accurately as possible. A big band of veteran local musicians, including ex-Doobie Brothers Dale Ockerman and Tiran Porter, were drafted for the band. The show has a theatrical twist, including elaborate lighting, dance acts, and even video. It’s now a regular concert draw with shows based on album themes, such as “RubberRevolver” and “Let Abbey Road Be.” Its next performance arrives in San Jose at 5:30pm on Thursday, June 23 as part of the Music in the Park free outdoor concert series.

The ensemble builds on classic tunes from the Beatles, adding horn sections, strings and Indian instruments for a unique blend of modern arrangements. While the set list for this particular show is usually limited to songs from the White Album, singles from other releases and post-Beatles solo projects sometimes find their way into the production.

But the question remains: If the White Album Ensemble is neither covering nor paying tribute, then what is the group doing? Well, it is merely a group of musicians playing the classics of our time, with a fresh interpretation and unique presentation.

A good analogy would be a modern symphony playing the classics of Mozart or Beethoven. Since no effort is made to mimic the look and sound of the masters, this eliminates the need for a generic label. The Beatles defied labels, so why shouldn’t the White Album Ensemble?