Blitzkreig Bop and Other Jazz Mutations
I keep hearing the same thing about this CD: I didnt know what to think the first time I played the C-Nuts. Now its one of my favorites CDs. These guys play traditional jazz versions of rock hits they grew up withDire Straits, The Pretenders, Joe Jackson, Peter Gabriel, all that. Every song is so transformed youll think youre hearing it for the first time. Up front, Patricks powerful vocals blend Joe Cocker and Louis Prima. Behind him, four top-notch jazz guys stoke the fire. Recorded with see-his-tonsils claritythe drums, bass and congas punch through with kickass dynamics. Clarinet and sax have that two-feet-away, wailing, live edge. Be sure to check out the bands MP3s on our website. This is one not to miss! (#07752)
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Some of you may remember Saturday Night Lives Bill Murray and his lounge singer sketch, where he would be performing in a ski lodge or at a college reunion. Along with a Jazzy pianist, Murray would take pop songs and skewer them in a smarmy fashion.
On my initial listening to Blitzkrieg Bop, I had a sense memory of the Murray act. However tongue-in-cheek this approach may be, The C-Nuts really manage to pull it off with aplomb. The quintets take on Dire Straits Sultans of Swing uses the open feel of composer Mark Knopflers version and makes it Jazzy. Pat Staceys vocals remind me a bit of Buddy Miles (drummer-vocalist with The Electric Flag and Jimi Hendrix). There are lots of soul mannerisms that come to the forefront on Elvis Costellos Every Day I Write The Book the hoarse vocal style, the bending of syllables, and more. Stings Murder By Numbers has a dramatic opening then drops into a boppish swing piece. I like the stark, cool-Jazz approach to Shock The Monkey though it loses some of the tension inherent in composer Peter Gabriels version. The tune features strong piano work from Jon Ozmont and smart rhythm section play.
Other highlights include The Clashs Jimmy Jazz which gets a clever New Orleans-tinged arrangement. Gary Numans Cars sounds like a McCoy Tyner piece and includes strong soprano work from Scott Young. The title track, from the repertoire of The Ramones, lives up to its name and swings like mad. It totally loses any of its punk-rock associations but still has some power.
...Staceys blues-drenched vocals are a plus and the band plays quite well. At times, it really does sound like a put-on. Have some fun with the rock purists in the crowd and give them a taste of the C-Nuts.
These guys tread a musical line between the ludicrous and lovely, and come off like circus acrobats whose performances justify the risks. Although perhaps they went a little too far with their jazzed up version of Shock The Monkey. Shock indeed. Actually it works after a second listen. As does their take on Gary Numans, Cars, surprisingly enough. Aside from a couple of exceptions, (the) C-Nuts improve on the Top 40 hits, adding sophistication, accentuating emotional nuances, and making things swing when needed. These transformed covers have depth, convey joy and are fun to listen to that cant be said for all of the original versions. In the end, the success of this CD, why the material works can be attributed to the fine musicianship from top to bottom. And while the premise of Blitzkrieg Bop is about turning pop into jazz, the fact that the C-Nuts are doing popular tunes seems like an after-thought. Also adding to the enjoyment is the way this CD was recorded. Its a pure unadulterated approach to recording that makes it possible for the listener to feel like hes actually in the room as the musicians jam.
All About Jazz:
Mapleshade Records created the offshoot Wildchild! Label to record fun stuff from the R&B, soul, rock and country musical genre. Fine. But that's not what's happening with this C-Nuts release -- a play on the name of the popular Squirrel Nut Zippers band? True, one can hear some R&B, especially when Jon Ozment or Derek Wille turns on the organ. But the charts are closer to post bop, with the emphasis on swing. Listen to the aptly named “Sultans of Swing” a medium tempo piece carried off by Pat Stacey's vocals and Scott Young's John Coltrane influenced sax. Not bad for a jump band. Also, while I'm sure it wasn't the intent, “Cars” with Ozment's modern sounding piano and Young's eastern snake charmer sounding soprano saxophone playing off each other's center rhythms, comes close to avant garde. What these young men have done is taken pieces written by the likes of UK composer and artist Joe Jackson and rockers like Sting and Peter Gabriel and other contemporary composers and wrapped their works in a jazzy cover making what comes out sound better than the original. “Jimmy Jazz” has elements of traditional jazz again lead by Stacey's Dr. John like vocalizing and Young's dazzling clarinet licks. “Blitzkrieg Bop” comes straight from the bopsters of the Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie era with some tough walking bass by Steve Sachse. There's even a Latin piece combined with R&B with “Hyperactive”.
The album is broader in scope than the liner notes would have one believe and it's a lot fun. Recommended.