Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Lester Bowie, Bobby Broom, and Alex Skolnick.

Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy >Papa's Got a Brand New Bag

Bobby Broom >I Will

Alex Skolnick Trio >Money

Don't know about you, but whining as a 53 year old baby boomer, it's about time. Our music's got some respect.

Most of my life the intellectual chattering class has rapped the uselessness of my culture, pop culture. From I Love Lucy to the Beatles to The Mary Tyler Moore Show to... you name it. "Disposible junk" is what we heard, even after Dylan and Sgt.Pepper made it all AHhhtt.

And once I got into jazz it just got worse. Around the 40s it started taking itself extremely seriously, especially when it came to it's musical pretentions. But underneath it all it was kind of insecure, and it liked interpreting the pop music of it's day (the "Great American Songbook") in a fancy dancy way. And then the only use jazz had for the simpler, less harmonically sophisticated songs of the rock'n'roll era was the condescending (but often very groovy) boogaloo of soul jazz.

I've become obsessed with finding great jazz covers of great rock-era pop songs. And, for all the reasons above, it's pretty damn hard. Because most players don't seem to think the songs are worth shit.

Then, during an NPR radio obit for the great trumpeter Lester Bowie (from the Art Ensemble of Chicago) I heard this unbelievably cool cover of Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, and I knew the day had come. Smart, funny, rockin', sexy, Lester had it covered. Too late, I found out he'd been covering the pop songs of his youth (and my youth): The Great Pretender, It's Howdy Doody Time, I Only Have Eyes for You, Miles Davis Meets Donald Duck, Saving All My Love for You, Blueberry Hill, Oh, What a Night... and the list kept getting longer. Oh joy!

And then, guitarist Bobby Broom. I don't know too much about him other than he's from Chicago. [Update: I just heard directly from Bobby (the web is an amazing thing). Originally a New Yorker, he's living in Chicago right now.] But again, he's around my age and his "disposible" list includes
I'll Never Fall in Love Again, Layla, Sly & the Family Stone's Stand!, I Can See Clearly Now, Happy Together, Monday Monday, the Beatles' I Will, and Light My Fire.

Now, here's the capper. Alex Skolnick is a former speed metal guitar from the band Testament. He quit his band, went to the New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, and came out the other side with Goodbye To Romance: Standards For A New Generation and Transformation. Skolnick was interpreting material by Judas Priest, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Scorpions, Iron Maiden and—yes—Ronnie James Dio. I heard Money on some radio show. So, finally a rock culture player discovers his harmonic mantra and reinterpret his pop heritage.

You might disagree. A lot of my other friends think that any instrumental cover of a rock record is only muzak. But for me, like I said, it's about time.

Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy >
Papa's Got a Brand New Bag

Bobby Broom >I Will
Alex Skolnick Trio >Money


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