Stairway to Heavy: Jazz Artists Riff on Classic Rock Canon

Classic rock, especially of the Woodstock era, has grown from middle-aged to old-fashioned status during the 21st century. Four recent jazz projects shine a light on the venerable subgenre’s outsized influence, with covers of seminal material from a blues-based supergroup, folk-rock icons, the ultimate guitar hero and the original jam band. . At Whole Lotta Love – The Music of Led Zeppelin (Chesky), drummer Obed Calvaire, saxophonist Bob Franceschini, pianist Kevin Hays and bassist Orlando le Fleming deliver down-tempo acoustic instrumental takes – all impressively recorded in one day – from the British quartet’s material, removing the emphasis while retaining the rhythmic elasticity of guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist / keyboardist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham. Franceschini, a longtime member of guitarist Mike Stern’s band, largely covers the vocal melodies of Robert Plant, while Hays takes care of the chords and solos of Page. On the title track, these chords include a reference to Miles Davis’ standard “So What” after Le Fleming declared the familiar guitar riff of the melody Zep. Basics like “Dazed and Confused” and “Immigrant Song” go from almost rote to unrecognizable, respectively, but these are the more obscure tracks on the album (the demoted Calvary “In My Time of Dying” and ” Custard Pie “; the reimagined ballads” Ten Years Gone “and” The Battle of Evermore “; and Hays’ final presentation” No Quarter “) that shine. While Zeppelin’s jazz influences were primarily rhythmic, expressed through eerie time signatures, three other recent tribute releases salute classic rock artists whose relationships with jazz were more harmonic and harmonic. California singer Judy Wexler Back to the garden (Jewel City Jazz) takes its name from a lyric from Joni Mitchell’s anthemic composition “Woodstock”. Some of his hits from this era – by Bob Dylan, Judy Collins and Stephen Stills – feature strings and venture into an awkward mix of chamber jazz and cabaret. But Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” and Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin ‘” are highlights, thanks in large part to the singer’s respectful vocal deliveries and updated arrangements by Josh Nelson. and its talented longtime pianist Jeff Colella. On the 2B3 Jimi (self-edited) Denver-based keyboardist Jeff Jenkins, guitarist Mike Abbott and drummer Mike Marlier successfully blend surprising originality into the work of guitarist Jimi Hendrix in a Hammond organ trio instrumental format. Abbott and Jenkins’ arrangements result in a quirky ‘Purple Haze’, an acid ‘Manic Depression’, a scrambling ‘Foxey Lady’ and even a few originals (the blues’ Etched in Stone ‘and the atmospheric title song) that effectively capture the mood. spirit of the project. spirit. Throughout, Jenkins provides the glue with textures and left bass lines; Abbott effectively channels the genius of chords and solos of the late guitarist; and Marlier powerfully mixes the jazz-influenced playing of Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Mitch Mitchell with the thud of future Band of Gypsys drummer Buddy Miles. All of this illustrates why trumpeter Davis wanted to record with Hendrix, and made Jimi comparable to an equally exploratory tribute release from 1995, Purple mist, by organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, guitarist John Abercrombie and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith. Similarly, Detroit-based saxophonist Dave McMurray Grateful dedication (Blue Note) is not the first jazz nod to the Grateful Dead, after several releases over the past quarter century by Jazz Is Dead, a star team with former members of Weather Report and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. . McMurray’s tenor saxophone mimics the vocals of Dead classics like “Fire on the Mountain” and “Eyes of the World”, but a few tracks feature notable guest vocal performances. Singer Bettye LaVette blazes Jerry Garcia-Robert Hunter’s slow-burning composition “Loser”, aided by Dead Founding guitarist Bob Weir, and Herschel Boone’s voice on “Touch of Gray” from this songwriting duo steer the hit late-career pop of the Dead in Territory R&B jazz. – Bill Meredith

Ada J. Kenney