Sunday, November 28, 2010

Crimson Jazz Trio

Crimson Jazz Trio (group)
King Crimson Songbook Vol. 2
Ian Wallace (drums)
Tim Landers (bass)
Jody Nardone (piano)

It came as some surprise recently when hip-hop's Kanye West sampled King Crimson's classic jazz-rock jam "21st Century Schzoid Man." It wasn't especially strange that the sound of a vocally distorted Greg Lake worked well within the context of "Power," a somewhat sinister track from Kanye's latest album, but it was unexpected that one of hip-hop's hipper-than-thou artists would even be aware of the progressive rock dinosaurs. Hip-hop and prog rock don't have much in common stylistically, and even within rock circles, Robert Fripp's cult band is considered an acquired taste — you either love Crimson or you hate them.

All of this reminded me of the Crimson Jazz Trio, a group devoted exclusively to rendering trad jazz versions of King Crimson songs. Pianist Jody Nardone, fretless bass guitarist Tim Landers and the drummer Ian Wallace (a Crimson veteran) recorded two albums before Wallace succumbed to cancer in 2007. Nardone also did some singing on CJ3's second album, The King Crimson Songbook, Vol. 2, though its fairly one note in comparison to the piano playing. In addition, Mel Collins, another Crimson vet, can be heard playing soprano and alto saxophone on the album.

CJ3 does jazz justice to Crimson of the '60s ("I Talk to the Wind"), '70s ("Starless"), '80s ("Frame by Frame") and '90s ("One Time"), bringing the melodies to life with an intimate ensemble sensibility and deeply felt improvisation. Even if you aren't a fan of the band's original recordings you're likely to respond well to CJ3.

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