Nirvana Plays “All Apologies”

Nirvana All ApologiesListen to this track by million-selling outsiders and grunge initiators Nirvana. It’s “All Apologies”, one half of the double A-side single (“Rape Me” was the other half…) that also appeared on the band’s last completed studio album In Utero in 1993. It would also appear, and be very well framed too, in the live document MTV Unplugged In New York.

The song is among many that made their success, and positioned its writer Kurt Cobain as a leading voice of the era. It would be his instinctual ear for pop hooks within the context of hard-edged rock music that would elevate him from the grassroots scenes in the Pacific Northwest, to the international stage.

Who saw that coming? Certainly not Nirvana.

And what did Kurt Cobain in particular make of this odd turn of events; success in the pop charts? History has shown that Cobain and the fame game were not compatible. That can certainly be detected here, even in this song which was written before that success became such a burden. Read more

Charlie Hunter Trio Perform Nirvana Song “Come As You Are”

bing_bing_bingListen to this song by jazz and instrumental rock wunderkinds the Charlie Hunter Trio with their post-bop take on Kurt Cobain’s “Come As You Are”, a key cut from the trio’s LP Bing, Bing, Bing!, released in 1995.

I remember when I first heard this version of the Nirvana tune.  It was Toronto, Yonge St., at the HMV there in 1995 when this record came out.   I remember thinking two things.  First, that I loved the interplay between the bass and the guitar. The bass player was playing the central riff, while the guitar player punched out the melody line.  Second, that it was so great that jazz musicians were becoming less snobby about rock music, and were getting to the point where the idea of the jazz standard when performing tunes audiences know was beginning to expand.

Subsequently of course, I learned a few things about this version of the song, and about the Charlie Hunter Trio.

First, that bass player I was so impressed by doesn’t exist.  And that in fact the guitar player punching out the melody line, one Charlie Hunter, is actually playing that bassline at the same time. Charlie Hunter’s guitar has eight strings, with extra bass strings to account for his lack of a bass player in this group.  Maybe this  band set up was made to impress.  Well, it worked – even on me, who isn’t really in favour of flashy soloing and musical dexterity for its own sake.

Second,  I learned that these guys were mostly the exception to the rule when it came to acknowledging the melodic value in rock music as music to structure a  jazz arrangement around.  There are a few more, of course.  Herbie Hancock, for instance, has made inroads into expanding the vocabularly of material around which to base jazz exploration.  But, jazz is still willfully walled off from public consumption as far as establishing a new canon of jazz standards.  I really think this is a shame, since there is so much to be explored beyond the traditional American songbook.

The band’s sound isn’t limited by straight ahead jazz, but incorporates funk, instrumental rock, and even a touch of 60s-flavoured psychedelia.  To hear it, and for more information about the Charlie Hunter Trio, check out the Charlie Hunter Trio site.