Jazzers Who Rock

RIP Dr. John the Night Tripper.

An occasional series where I feature jazz bands who take a rock tune and spin it on its head …

–It’s hard to find much about the genesis of this first album but indications are it might have been the brainstorm of organist Sam Yahel. Together with drummer Ari Hoenig, guitarist Mike Moreno and saxman Seamus Blake, in 2008 he released an album called Jazz Side of the Moon. (If you need me to name the original band, don’t let the Internet hit you on the way out.)

Here they do “Money” and it’s about the coolest thing I ever heard.

Spotify link

–The Minneapolis-bred trio known as Bad Plus (pictured on top of post) have been around almost twenty years. The original line-up consisted of Ethan Iverson (piano), Reid Anderson (bass), and Dave King (drummer.)*

Wikipedia: “The trio’s music combines elements of modern avant-garde jazz with rock and pop influences. The band have recorded versions of songs by Nirvana, Aphex Twin, Blondie, Pink Floyd, Ornette Coleman, Pixies, Rush, Tears for Fears, Neil Young, David Bowie, Yes, Interpol, and Black Sabbath.” (!)

On their eponymous 2001 debut album, in addition to songs by Abba and Broadway writers Lorenz and Hart, they also recorded their intense version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” (As near as I can tell they changed labels between the 1st and 2nd albums and so “Teen Spirit” is also on that one.)

Spotify link

–It’s not entirely clear to me that the band Fly is still together as a unit but the players are definitely still around. Another trio, the band consists of saxophonist Mark Turner, drummer Jeff Ballard, and bassist Larry Grenadier.

Of their eponymous 2004 debut album, AllMusic said, “If your ears are starved for innovative jazz that blends punchy sax lines and dense, wild, worldbeat-flavored bass and drum rhythms, let this newly formed trio with an amazing pedigree fill the bill … Fly is definitely a cooperative by three major jazz talents.”

Jimi Hendrix’ great “Spanish Castle Magic.”

Spotify link

–The Beatles were a band who – sources advise me – had some success in the ’60s. Their music has been covered by just about everybody and here I give you the Jazz Crusaders take on “Eleanor Rigby.” (The band later changed its name to The Crusaders.)

The Crusaders were popular throughout the ’60s and ’70s, the latter especially in a fusion format with guitar great Larry Carlton. “Rigby” comes from a 1968 live album called Lighthouse ’68.

Personnel are: Wayne Henderson, trombone; Wilton Felder, tenor saxophone; Joe Sample, piano; Buster Williams, bass; Stix Hooper, drums.**

Spotify link

*Iverson left Bad Plus a few years back and was replaced by Orrin Evans.

**Most of these guys – along with Carlton – wound up at one time or another on Steely Dan albums.

18 thoughts on “Jazzers Who Rock

  1. I could listen to that all day and will. What a way to open up the set. I’ll be putting all these on my spin list. Not just the individual cuts but the albums. When people say there are no young players or nobody playing Jazz anymore. I will hold them down, tape some headphone to their lemons and say “Listen Up”. Don’t those real drums sound so good, none of that drum machine stuff. And the sax Doc,what are you trying to do to me.
    Well the Crusaders aren’t new but nice way to finish up. Always liked those guys. The Beatles were a favorite band to cover in the 60’s. I wonder if the suits thought they could make some $$ on the lads backs. Despite that, the proof is in the listening on how the jazz guys handle it. Very good piece Doc. I hope a few people tune in because it’s all very accessible music.

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    1. I am way overdue for one of these ‘jazzers who rock’ posts. I don’t know how young these players are (and the Crusaders are mostly gone) but yeah it’s good stuff. I have to spin that entire ‘Moon’ album, haven’t yet.

      As to the Beatles stuff, yeah in some respects it’s the labels goosing the musicians on. But jazzers are always looking for interesting stuff to play no matter where it comes from. Witness Coltrane and ‘My Favorite Things’ and Sinatra with ‘Someday My Prince Will Come.’ So the Beatles were harmonically interesting, more than just your average rock band in terms of chords and stuff.

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    1. Yeah, do that. Not familiar with it. There used to be a club in Lowell, MA called the Commodore. All kinds of people played there – Dickey Betts, the Four Tops. The Doors played there in ’67. I saw Dr. John there, more out of curiosity and name recognition as opposed to being a huge fan. But he was an important force for sure. Gris-gris.

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      1. In the same vein as the covers. He puts his twist on Duke material and it works big time for me. ‘I’m Gonna Go Fishin’ would be right up your alley. Has some nice guitar work. It fits in with your post maybe more on the funky side.
        Gotta go I have some cool new tunes to spin thanks to the two Docs.

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  2. Hi
    I’m late to the Jazz party, but am finally getting into some of the Nu Jazz stuff.
    (I do have a bundle of old school jazz CDs, and in a twist to your post title, I have a an album by a Rocker doing Jazz …. ‘Jazzin’ The Blues’ by Edgar Winter.
    (This comment relates to my Loud Horizon blog and not my Cee Tee Jackson as shows.) 🙂

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