JazzWax List: 8 Hip Rockers - JazzWax

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August 06, 2010


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Joel Lewis

An imaginative pair of CDs that reworking rock catalogs are by the late japaneses drummer Motohiko Hino, brother of trumpeter Teramusa Hino. One album was half-devoted to Led Zeppelin sngbook & the other album was devoted to Rolling Stone tunes, released on grammavision & recorded in US w/ a crew that included Steve Swallow, Dave Leibman, John Scofield & Karen Mantler. There is a killer version of Zepp's "The Ocean" with a great Scofield feature.

I will nominate Steve Marcus's "Tommorrow Never Knows" as one of the great "jazz-rock" records & featuring some of the most intersting treaments of rock songs by a jazz musician. Key difference is that Marcus understood rock music in the way that jazz musicians like getz & Young understood the Great American Songbook. Marcus performs the Beatles' "Tommorrrow never Knows" in the manner that Coltrane tackled My favorite Things. Also his version of the Byrd's "8 Miles High" offers some creedence to Roger McGuinn's claim that the song is actually a homage to Coltrane & not a drug ditty.

Gary Burton, also a real rock fan, did a lovely version of Norwegian Woods in his RCA Days.
there should also be a look in the ways that jazz, especially swing-era jazz, had a profound effect on 60s era rock. ten Years After did a version of Woodchoppers Ball, Manfred Mann always had a jazz tune on its early albums & then there was the whole spate of horn based bands include Chase, led by trumpeter Bill Chase (forget now which big band he played in, herman's?)

Bill Kirchner

That entire Paul Desmond album of Paul Simon songs is among his, Don Sebesky's, and Creed Taylor's finest hours. It also has some wonderful Herbie Hancock.

Thad Jones did a great chart on Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing." Originally recorded in 1974 on the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis "Potpourri" album (Philadelphia International), and rerecorded by the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra in 2008 on "Monday Night Live At The Village Vanguard" (Planet Arts).

Keith Hedger

Freddie Hubbard - 'uncle albert/admiral halsey' from "First Light" (CTI)

Milt Jackson - 'People Make the World Go Round' from 'Sunflower' (CTI)

Jazz Lunatique

Sex Mob - Sign of the Times

Vijay Iyer - Galang (trio riot version)

Brad Meldau - Martha My Dear - killer piano that doesn't stop

The Gold Sounds record - James Carter, Cyrus Chestnut, Reginald Veal, and Ali Jackson take on the songs of Pavement.

Ed Leimbacher

The Marcus album stands alone for depth and amazing power. There's probably a whole cottage industry of Beatles covers, but would you include Jazz players doing rockish material even if not actual rock tunes--like the heyday of Charles Lloyd and Gabor Szabo? Also, enjoyable or not, do you believe the Jazz guys liked those albums, or were they slumming, forced into such by producers and labels and those grim times for Jazz? I'll bet Bud Shank, for one, would not cite California Dreamin' as anything he was proud of later.


I recently got a great album called "King Crimson Songbook Volume 2" by the Crimson Jazz Trio. This is an eclectic jazz piano trio doing their own creative arrangements of King Crimson tunes. I only recognized one of the songs, so you don't have to know these to appreciate the album. It's just a fantastic trio. Duke Ellington recorded a Beatles album in the '60s that I don't think has ever been reissued. I remember it (vaguely) as pleasant and lighthearted, but not a compelling jazz record. For a humorous take on '60s hits, there's an album called "The Big Ones" by Ted Heath. Actually Heath had nothing to do with it. It's Roland Shaw's wacky arrangements played by a studio band. Shaw didn't get to choose the tunes, but he did a good job of turning them into big band music, played with great verve by the anonymous musicians.

Ed Leimbacher

I forgot to mention... Herbie Mann who was always willing to try anything and call it Jazz--specifically his several albums of soul & rock tunes with rhythm sections from Memphis and Muscle Shoals, including Duane Allman on one Fine LP (Memphis Underground, was it?).

Bruce Armstrong

With regard to the Joe Pass "Stones Jazz" recording--I thought a LOT of that recording was way above average in adapting rock tunes to jazz--especially from the Rolling Stones--who I never would have thought had done that much that could be adapted, unlike the Beatles. I bought "Stones Jazz" when it first came out in the 60s because I had heard some cuts on the local FM jazz station and was really taken with the great settings arranger Bob Florence had created for Joe's virtuoso--and swinging--playing. Florence used a trombone section to great effect and Bill Perkins on saxophones & flute as the other featured soloist. This has never made it to CD that I know of and I cannot figure out why?

Rab Hines

It has, in fact. It has been combined with his 12-string album on CD. I also saw what I think was a K2 version a week or so ago.


Gil Evans' album of Hendrix tunes grew out of an intended collaboration that was preempted by the guitarist's death.


I would have to mention three songs:

Freddie Hubbard - Cold Turkey (from Red Clay): I must admit that I don't have the album and have only listened to the tune a couple of times, but it certainly is classic Freddie with an awesome twist.

Marcin Wasilewski Trio - Diamonds and Pearls (from January): Maybe it doesn't count as a rock-tune, but this late Prince-gem somehow fitted quite well into the frost-gleaming quality of Wasilewski's solo-oeuvre.

The Bad Plus - Smells Like Team Spirit (from Motel): For some reason the sound of Nirvana makes for interesting jazz-versions, something that The Bad Plus has recognised on numerous occasions. The energy of this track is amazing.


Aja, Fm, Green Earrings and all the Steely Dan covers on the Woody Herman Band album, 'Chick, Donald, Walter and Woodrow are clever and works as big band arrangements. Admittedly the source material is rather sophisticated to begin with.

The Beatles 'She's Leaving Home' as a nice solo guitar take by Larry Coryell is on his 'Tricycles' album. While we're talking Beatles, I also like 'Oh Darling! from the George Benson/Creed Taylor collection, 'The Other Side of Abbey Road.'

Some will disagree but Sinatra's recording of George Harrison's 'Something' is something special to me. Even when mental images of Joe Piscopo's Sinatra impressions intrude on my enjoyment of it!

Bruce Stevens

Stanley Jordan doing the Led Zep tune "Stairway to Heaven"

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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