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Jazz Covers Rock: The New Standards

The Brad Mehldau Trio. i

The Brad Mehldau Trio. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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The Brad Mehldau Trio.

The Brad Mehldau Trio.

Courtesy of the artist

Virtually every band plays a few cover songs. Some play nothing but. In the jazz world, the term "jazz standard" is code for a classic song that's been covered many times by many artists over the course of many years.

The five artists heard here break away from covering standards and turn their attention to jazz covers of modern-day fare: Judas Priest, Radiohead, Aphex Twin, Bjork and Elliott Smith. The results are respectful but not overly reverent; some may even unlock new jazz standards for future generations.

For more entries in NPR Music's weekly Take Five: A Weekly Jazz Sampler series, click here.

Jazz Covers Rock: The New Standards

Transformation

Electric Eye

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/94643492/94620493" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Alex Skolnick Trio

  • Song: Electric Eye
  • from Transformation

Original: Judas Priest - Screaming for Vengeance - 1982. Alex Skolnick was a guitarist for the Bay Area metal band Testament when he first took an interest in jazz. After leaving Testament in the early '90s, he moved to New York and enrolled in The New School's jazz-studies program. Combining heavy metal and jazz came naturally to Skolnick, who today divides his time between touring with his jazz trio and working with Testament, which he rejoined a few years ago.

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Transformation
Album
Transformation
Artist
Alex Skolnick Trio
Label
Magnatude
Released
2004

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Cover for Day Is Done

Knives Out

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Brad Mehldau Trio

  • Song: Knives Out
  • from Day Is Done

Original: Radiohead - Amnesiac - 2001. Throw out Radiohead's guitars and vocals and replace them with an acoustic jazz piano trio. What do you get? You get a version of "Knives Out" that sounds every bit as complex as the original. The song opens with a simple bass line from Larry Grenadier; then, Jeff Ballard adds the sort of up-tempo drumming not heard in typical jazz standards. Brad Mehldau deftly breaks in with the melody and some additional sonic layering. It's an arrangement that's sure to inspire a new appreciation of Radiohead's composition.

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Day Is Done
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Day Is Done
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Brad Mehldau Trio
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Nonesuch

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Cover for These Are the Vistas

Flim

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The Bad Plus

  • Song: Flim
  • from

Original: Aphex Twin - Come to Daddy EP - 1997. The Bad Plus shook out the electric from what was once an electronica piece and reworked it into a treatment for acoustic piano trio. Ethan Iverson's piano provides the light melody, while Dave King's drums work complex patterns around it. It's King's drumming that really preserves the integrity of the original, while Reid Anderson's bass rounds out the sound.

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These Are the Vistas
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These Are the Vistas
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The Bad Plus
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Columbia

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The Infinite

Unison

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Dave Douglas

  • Song: Unison
  • from Infinite

Original: Bjork - Vespertine - 2004. Bjork's recording of "Unison" features lush layers of electronics, as well as samples and a background choir. Trumpeter Dave Douglas strips away all of that and transforms the song into a more nuanced acoustic affair. The core of "Unison" is brought forward through interplay between Douglas and the bass clarinet of Chris Potter.

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Infinite
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Infinite
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Dave Douglas
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RCA
Released
2002

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Cover for Careless Love

Between the Bars

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Madeleine Peyroux

  • Song: Between the Bars
  • from Careless Love

Original: Elliott Smith - Either/Or -1997. Singer Madeleine Peyroux squeezes every drop of depression from the original and concentrates it. Elliott Smith's sparse guitar and vocal have been replaced by an even more haunting, Billie Holiday-inspired reading. The addition of accordion, piano and perfectly placed percussion helps give "Between the Bars" eerie new depth.

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Careless Love
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Careless Love
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Madeleine Peyroux
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Rounder

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