‘Versatile’: How Van Morrison Got Back In The Swing With Jazz

A reminder that no one does diverse like Van Morrison, the ‘Versatile’ album dove deep into the jazz music that fired him up as a young man in Belfast.

Published on

Van Morrison Roll With The Punches Press Shot 01 1000
Photo courtesy of Caroline International

Barely three months elapsed since legendary singer-songwriter Van Morrison released his critically-acclaimed Roll With The Punches and its follow-up, Versatile. The former album found Morrison revisiting many of the definitive rhythm’n’blues records that have stayed with him since his early life; on the aptly-titled Versatile, however, he delved deeply into jazz: the genre which fired him up as a young man in his native Belfast, and music which, for him, remains a touchstone to this day.

Listen to Verstile on Apple Music and Spotify.

“It’s Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, The Modern Jazz Quartet – any kind of good jazz, I always go back to that,” Morrison informed Rolling Stone in a 2016 interview, when asked what music he turned to “for medicine and comfort”.

Renowned for legend-enshrining albums such as Moondance and Tupelo Honey, which skillfully blend strands of gospel, pop, folk and Celtic soul, Van Morrison’s chameleonic muse has also frequently been enhanced by jazz throughout his distinguished career.

1968’s much-lauded Astral Weeks, for example, featured decisive contributions from US jazz greats such as Chet Baker, drummer Connie Kay and Gil Evans bassist Richard Davies, and it remains one of Morrison’s most essential releases. Revisiting the genre on Versatile, he interspersed a clutch of brand new self-penned tracks with inimitable reinterpretations of 20th-century jazz standards previously immortalized by stars including Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tony Bennett.

Playfully diverse

Versatile is as playfully diverse as its title suggests, with lively, swinging re-imaginings of “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” “I Get A Kick Out Of You” and Chet Baker’s signature song, “Let’s Get Lost,” contrasting with a subtle, understated take on the suggestive “Makin’ Whoopee” and an imaginative, Dave Brubeck-esque reshaping of traditional Scottish folk staple “The Skye Boat Song.”

However, it’s also a testament to the enduring strength of Morrison’s craft that his freshly minted original songs more than hold their own in such august company. Indeed, the celebratory, horn-led “Only A Dream,” dreamy, James Galway-assisted “Affirmation” and punchy “Broken Record” – wherein Morrison neatly apes a needle stuck in the groove during the stuttering chorus – are all among Versatile’s generous spread of highlights.

The arrival of his 38th studio album, on December 1, 2017, crowned a remarkable year for this singular Northern Irish troubadour. In the wake of his U.K. Top 5 success with Roll With The Punches and his acceptance of the Americana Music Association’s prestigious 2017 Lifetime Achievement award, Versatile was a timely reminder of the fact no other artist is capable of doing dexterous and diverse quite like Van Morrison.

Versatile can be bought here.



  1. Mark Palmos

    December 6, 2017 at 12:26 am

    Are you tone deaf? His singing is abysmal, embarrassing, mediocre at best. He constantly resorts to Van clichés, and yet his voice is well past singing like he could as a younger man. IMO this is a very bad album. Van’s versions of every one of these songs is inferior to the original, including versions of songs he’s sung before. 2/10 for good instruments and arrangements. (Not his high school level sax playing).

  2. Dr. Steve

    December 8, 2017 at 5:38 am

    Send all his music to me my brother. I’ll listen to him Night and Day. No one is in his/her prime when he/she is 72, son. He is phenomenal for 72 and Van is a living legend. Thank God he is still giving us his gifts. One day it will end unfortunately, so as of now, enjoy, be humble, have gratitude, and appreciation. See life from years ahead of your own.

  3. Dr. Linda

    December 22, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    Liked the album. Didnt expect to. Can easily listen to this on a loop
    Which I did for two hours

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Billy Idol - Rebel Yell LP
Rebel Yell (40th Expanded Edition) (Marbled Limited Edition) 2LP
Def Leppard - Pyromania 2LP
Def Leppard
Pyromania 2LP
The Who - Live At Shea Stadium 1982 3LP
The Who
Live At Shea Stadium 1982 3LP
Keane - Hopes And Fears 20th Limited Edition 2LP
Hopes And Fears 20th Limited Edition 2LP
Abba - Waterloo 50th Anniversary
Abba - Waterloo 50th Anniversary (Limited Edition 3 x 7" Box Set)
Bob Marley - Songs Of Freedom Limited Edition 6LP Box Set
Bob Marley - Songs Of Freedom Limited Edition 6LP Box Set
uDiscover Music - Back To Top
uDiscover Music - Back To Top