Everything All Of The Time: Kid A Revisited
British jazz pianist Rick Simpson here reworks Radiohead’s Kid A for jazz – specifically for an acoustic quintet. He’s more than ably assisted by Will Glaser (drums), James Allsop (baritone saxophone), Tori Freestone (tenor sax) and Dave Whitford (bass). They take the album, in order, and recast it as modern jazz – and of course it works. It works gloriously. The arrangements are all at once reminders of the freshness from 20 years ago when Radiohead left-turned, leaving Coldplay to mop up the foppishness of some of what they had started as well as being a charge towards jazz in their own right. Put another way, sometimes you instantly inescapably recognise the tune (Everything In Its Right Place) and other times (Treefingers) you don’t.
Simpson’s album was created out of a trial live set where he had been invited to respond to a formative album. It now appears – some 10 months after it was recorded – right in time for the 20th Anniversary of Radiohead’s game-changer; a game-changer at least in their own career. I might prefer the records that came after but this head-scratcher is the liberation-move, the album that freed the band from the lasso of its guitars.
Basically, Radiohead started making music that responded to and came from the world of electronica, but it was for and about the people that hadn’t previously bought into that world at all as much as it was ever connected to that world of music.
Simpson’s arrangements are nice, surprising and yet utterly connected to this same world of thought – as much for jazz heads as it is about taking jazz to an audience not always receptive for it and welcoming of it. We hear that in the cautious creep of In Limbo which starts with a bass line, adds a trinkle of piano and then the tenor and baritone saxes duel out with a wash of cymbals around them. We hear that also in the light salsa of Optimistic or the fiery fiesta of Idioteque.
Radiohead’s music – particularly its allegedly trickier stuff has been the subject of plenty of cover versions and has reached wider audiences, there’s a nice article about this here but for me that all started with Brad Mehldau’s 20 minute live solo piano rendition of Paranoid Android. That was the clue that there was more in this music – of that there could be.
Radiohead’s music travels well – and certainly that’s the case in Simpson’s hands.
This is thrilling and interesting and if it’s not both then it’s always one of those things at the very least. Which is the best that you can ask for with any music, jazz or otherwise.
I’ve come to care about Kid A more for what it enabled than what it is. And here it continues to be a gift and its continuance forever giving.
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