The thought of “The Clash” having a seductive or sexy side have always been a little overshadowed by how utterly badass they were. However, the incredibly talented band known as “The Cooltrane Quartet” are sure to make you think twice. Featuring multiple vocals with jazzy renditions of popular songs the band have skyrocketed the career of Karen Souza along with “The Cooltrain Quartet” since they last worked together in their 2005 album entitled Cool Jazz Blends. Whether you’re a jazz lover who can’t stand pop songs, or a fan of the originals that can’t seem to quite get into jazz, this album is a must for anyone looking to expand their musical pallet.
As elusive as the beginning of this review, the opening song is Clash favorite “Should I Stay or Should I Go”. With a smooth wink at the original rhythm lines, the stand up bass holds down the fort in this rendition. Building the way for Souza’s soothing voice, a very light piano line accompanies the bass setting the mood for smooth sailing across a musical journey through a song that is both familiar and yet slightly unrecognizable. The peak is reached with a freedom filled brass solo leaving us with a much-needed punch in the gut to remind us of the song’s punk origins. All in all the arrangement of this song leaves nothing wanted and it is indeed a staple of the Jazzy gone wild concept.
Somehow a bossa-nova arrangement was exactly the pepper that “Like a Virgin” needed to pull out the sexy theme of the song. Souza’s impeccable rendition of this Madonna classic speaks volumes about what a capable vocalist with a Jazz background can do when given a pop tune like this.
Continuing on with the pop star theme a rendition of British pop group “Simply Reds’” “Holding Back the Years” is the next track on the list. A very soft lounge rendition that holds true to the original melody for the most part but is distinctively cooler because, lets face it anytime you bring horns into the mix the song is bound to get well, hornier. In this case it is definitely for the better as pulls us out of the dreamy feeling instilled by the core of the song, bridging the gap in the song with the beautiful vocal line.
If anyone has ever picked up a guitar you have probably attempted to learn the first riff to “Smoke on The Water”. Ill wager however that your guitar playing sounded nothing like this “Cooltrane Quartet” rendition. A very distinct driven melody held together by -of all things- a scat produced by Souza reminding us of the songs legacy. Surprisingly enough there is little in the way of keyboard or piano work in this song, drawing a sharp contrast to Jon Lords heavy driven Hammond C3 from back in the 70’s.
“Karen Souza and The Cooltrane Quartet” are simply known for reinventing British rock band Oasis’s “Wonderwall”. While you may all know the original very well, this rendition will have you listening in through the first minute still trying to guess which track is this?. Building the opening with a beautiful trumpet lead before falling back into the lyrical wit. This song was not chosen by mistake and in some ways embodies the album as a whole as Souza along with The Cooltrane Quartet are simply throwing back songs they love, to us, as jazz renditions.
There are a many avid Pink Floyd fans that would not change a thing about “The Dark Side of The Moon”, this bold rendition of “Breathe” however takes the song out of its psychedelic and melancholy filled undertones. Featuring Lyle Hunter on vocals the song feeds a hardened sadness in her voice that only serves to highlight this masterful reinterpretation.
“Oh! Darling” a “Beatles” favorite, has the unmistakable sense of humor of the iconic British pop group, incorporating a very loud overdriven guitar that serves to break up the soulfulness, and build on the sadness that holds this song very near and dear in our hearts. Here Souza instead, highlights this with tremendous effect, by beginning with a back and fourth between her and a tenor saxophone. Ultimately leaving us with a strong tenor lead that pushes us to the brink of madness before finishing off with another scat back and fourth between the saxophone and Souza. Ultimately we are left with the feeling that this rendition could, quite possibly, give the original a run for its money.
A rendition of the dance rock super group “The Power Station’s” track called “Some like It Hot” is a passionate one which takes the song and cuts the time almost in half leaving us standing with a sense of having been seduced into falling in love with the genre.
Changing the dynamic up a bit “Back to Black” opens with a heavily driven hand-drum lead. This almost tips its hat to the Spanish guitar style that fills the woe still left by the early loss of “Amy Winehouse” as “Dinah York” fills in for this remarkable rendition of the song. Emulating the ominous feeling of the songs lyrics the musicianship is truly shown in this song both vocally and musically.
They seal the album off with a very jazzy rendition of “U2’s” “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”. With a not so subtle nod to the blue-eyed soul singers that popularized the genre, we are left with a very sorrowful goodbye to this album.
For the avid jazz fan, or just for anyone who might have a sense of humor that can appreciate a jazzy rendition of a hit made famous by an album entitled “Combat Rock”, “The Cooltrane Quartet’s” “Cool Jazz Blends” is definitely an album worth buying for your rack.
Reveiewed by: C.J. El-Khazen
Edited by: Ahmed S. Khalil