It is one thing to cover a rock song, after all, jazz musicians have been doing that since The Beatles, but few have tackled an entire album by a rock band. The target of UK pianist/composer Rick Simpson
's admiration is Radiohead's Kid A
(Parlophone, 2000), an album that provoked wildly divergent critical response in its day. Some lambasted the electronic-influenced follow-up to the hugely successful, hook-laden OK Computer
(Parlophone, 1997) as pretentious, incoherent and alienating. Others saw it as bold, imaginative and ground-breaking. Simpson obviously pitches his tent in the latter camp, embracing the energy, emotive clout and melodic grace that lies within.
Simpson heads an all-acoustic quintet, opening with a short version of "Everything in Its Right Place" that sets out his stall. Dave Whitford
's spacious double bass and Will Glaser's light touch on drums engender swing, while Tori Freestone
on tenor saxophone and James Allsop
's baritone saxophone weave melodious harmonic lines. Simpson's bassy left-hand ostinato counterbalances the right's tumbling glissandi on a composition that is greater than the sum of its parts. "Kid A" is largely unrecognizable from the original, with Allsopp leading the charge on a fiery post-bop arrangement.
One reason why Radiohead is so distinctive lies in the diversity of its influences: from Tim Buckley, Neil Young and Björk to King Crimson, first-wave punk and electronica. It was Charles Mingus
's Town Hall Concert
(Jazz Workshop, 1964) that inspired singer Thom Yorke on "National Anthem," and Simpson taps into that vein with a stonking version that is part free-jazz romp, part gospel blues ecstasy. At the other extreme, the ballad "How to Disappear Completely"with Freestone doubling on tenor and violinis shorn of its eerie undertones, accentuating the lyricism that courses through so much of Radiohead's music.
Simpson and drummer Glaser duet on "Treefingers," imbuing this ambient miniature with wintery impressionism. "Optimistic" is taken at quite a lick, the rattling rhythms and punchy saxophone motifs bookending impassioned collective improvisation. Freestone seduces on the slower "In Limbo," her simmering improvisation gathering power over an insistent rhythmic vamp. There are shades of Donny McCaslin
's burning David Bowie
tributes on "Iditoteque" unrecognizable from its Underworld-influenced originswith tenor and baritone saxophones trading back and forth over bustling interlocking rhythms.
Glaser's drum featuretrilling cymbals and fractured rhythmsintroduces "Morning Bell," an episodic though essentially straight-ahead workout built upon an extended piano solo that veers between free-flowing tumbles and rhythmically pronounced steps. A susurrous, tenor-led take on "Motion Picture Soundtrack" frames the haunting beauty of the original ballad and closes the album on a gently yearning note.
In paying tribute to one of contemporary music's most influential bands, Simpson makes a convincing case for jazz's abilitysome might say its necessityto extend its borrowed repertoire. For Radiohead fans who don't dig jazz, and for those jazz fans who think Radiohead suck, .Everything All of The Time: Kid A Revisited
might just cause a rethink.
Everything in Its Right Place; Kid A; The National Anthem; How to Disappear Completely; Treefingers; Optimistic; In
Limbo; Iditoteque; Morning Bell; Motion Picture Soundtrack.