Jazzers Who Rock – Covers of Radiohead, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin

Here’s my previous ‘Jazzers Who Rock’ post.

If you’ve followed this blog for more than a day, you’ll know that I love artists’ reinvention of others’ songs. Jazz musicians have forever used pop songs and standards as the basis for their explorings. (Case in point – As part of my foray into jazz guitar, I’m learning the melody to “Autumn Leaves,” directly from Frank Sinatra’s vocal.)

What jazzers like about these songs is, typically, melody and harmonic complexity. So you have, for example, Miles Davis doing “Someday My Prince Will Come,” a Disney tune. (Random side observation – while I can find no picture of them together, Miles and Frank were contemporaries, very much admired each other’s work and apparently would sometimes hang out together in night clubs. There was even rumor of them possibly recording together but it never happened. Talk about a dream team.)

It was only logical that a later generation of jazzers would venture into rock songs as the basis for their improvisation. Remarkably, some of these tunes easily lend themselves to sophisticated treatments.

For your consideration, covers of three of our favorite bands:

☛Karen Souza is a jazz singer from Buenos Aires. (A city I’d love to get to someday). Apparently, she’s got quite the fan base in Mexico. And then there’s this tidbit from Wikipedia: “Souza’s lounge music cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” was used extensively in the 2013 film The Zero Theorem, directed by Terry Gilliam, who had not been familiar with the original rendition.”

And so, without further ado, “Creep.” (My second use of a Radiohead song by a jazzer.) The brief piano solo at 2:21 is mighty fine:

☛In a discussion with fellow blogger Cincinnati Babyhead, he asked me if I’d heard Charlie Hunter’s version of “Come As You Are.” I hadn’t. And given that I recently did a Nirvana series, this seemed like an appropriate choice. Hunter is a fellow New Englander (Rhode Island) who has been active as a guitarist since the early ’90’s. I would someday like to be able to play half as well. This tune is really nice:

☛Joshua Redman is a sax player whose father Dewey played sax with jazz artists such as Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett. Joshua grew up listening to his father’s music but also cites influences such as The Beatles, Aretha Franklin and Led Zeppelin.

Zep did an album called Houses of the Holy way back when. If you’re familiar with the song, “The Crunge,” you’ll likely say “No way that can be done in a jazz style.” Think again. Joshua’s point of departure on this one is that funky beat:

20 thoughts on “Jazzers Who Rock – Covers of Radiohead, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin

  1. That Karen Souza has a great voice but I prefer Radiohead’s original of Creep.

    I’ve never been a fan of Nirvana (too rough and heavy for me) but the Charlie Hunter Trio version of Come As You Are is right up my street. I kept looking for a bass player and, of course, there isn’t one – Charlie is his own bass player. Terrific!

    The Joshua Redman video isn’t available here, unfortunately. But I’ll see what else he’s done …

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    1. Yeah, I’m with you on the ‘Creep’ version. What fascinates me more is how someone can revamp a song so thoroughly. All that said, ‘Creep’ is hardly my favorite Radiohead song. It’s a good song but a bit overrated. I hadn’t realized I’d used Radiohead twice in this series. Turns out they are at least as heavily jazz influenced as prog.

      I didn’t know Hunter’s stuff either. Definitely worth seeking out.

      Redman’s on Spotify as well. That version is up there.

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      1. There’s some nice stuff on that Joshua Redman album. Can’t say that The Crunge appeals, though – either Redman’s or Led Zep’s. But then I always did find Robert Plant’s voice irritating in the extreme.

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  2. OK I had to chime in on this one. I like Karen and the bands take on ‘Creep’. Love the lounge lizard thing. Charlie and the Trio just nail it. Never seen the clip. Funny when Charlie said who wrote the tune. The hosts reaction. I really dig Redman (CB is a huge sax guy). I have a few of his discs. I will be searching this one out or getting it some how ( the clip won’t play in the frozen tundra up here). I found a piece on the net and it absolutely grabbed me. Good one. Now you have my head spinning for others songs in the same vein. Top of my head I know George Benson did ‘White Rabbit’ and I Wes Montgomery did ‘Eleanor Rigby’. There’s two pretty good jazz guitarists for you Jim.

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    1. Yeah, the Souza version is controversial. Some dude on Reddit said it was terrible, then retracted the statement. Like he was afraid of hurting my feelings or something. I give a fuck.

      Pretty clear that host was clueless on the Nirvana tune. Thanks for the heads up on Hunter.

      Funny you should mention Wes. I was going through a stack of CD’s today and I found one of his. I need to start heavily absorbing jazz solos so I can start spitting them back out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s funny that the 3 tunes I mentioned are from guitar guys. I love their styles. Benson’s early stuff is where I started with him. If I look I know he did lots of covers. Hunter is carrying the torch. Have a couple other newer guitar players I like. I know you will keep opening up new music for CB.
        I think you and I let our ears and guts let us know what we like. All 3 cuts above sound very good to me. I’m stoked about the Joshua thang. I don’t know what Reddit it is.

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  3. Reddit provides a variety of services, including discussion. (I’m told the political side is nutjob so I stay away.) But the thing that interests me is that they have music discussion forums on just about every genre you can think of.

    I don’t know how your WordPress account is set up. But at the bottom of all my posts, I have the option to share the post. So I created a Reddit account a while back and now sometimes push my posts over there. They have what they call ‘subreddits’ of music and those are the genres.

    So for this post I sent it to the jazz subreddit. They appear to have a huge international audience. I had something like 250 views on it, which is huge for one of my posts. Those folks tend to communicate back to me through a Reddit inbox, not here. A few gave me some good ideas on other bands.

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    1. Yep. Wikipedia: “Hunter plays a custom seven-string guitar made by Jeff Traugott. Previously, Hunter played a custom-made, eight-string guitar made by luthier Ralph Novak of Novax Guitars. He played chords and lead guitar solos on the top five strings (tuned ADGBe), and simultaneously played bass lines on the bottom three strings (tuned EAD). With the addition of a Hughes & Kettner Tube Rotosphere (a Leslie rotary speaker simulator), his unique style produced a sound similar to that of a Hammond organ—an instrument he set out to imitate.”

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        1. Yep, the kinda guy that if you’re a guitar player you have to hate. Or love. Or both. 😀 I can, to a certain extent, understand his wanting to lay down his own bass lines. But if it were me I’d be perfectly happy to let the bass player do his or her job.

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  4. What, in your opinion, makes Radiohead so cover-able to jazz musicians? There are so many various covers of their songs.
    Also – stay tuned for my post tomorrow that relates to this post 😉

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    1. I’ll give you the honest answer here – I’m not really sure. Maybe it’s the same thing that makes the standards worthy – interesting melodies, complex chord progressions. And then I think of the progressive feel on stuff like ‘Paranoid Android.’ Truthfully I hadn’t even really thought of them in that context till I started noticing all the jazz covers.

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