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Kate Bush, As Heard By This Dude Who Sings Jazz: A Conversation

Ann Powers and Patrick Jarenwattananon at NPR Music on Theo Bleckman’s jazz-inflected cover album of Kate’s music Hello Earth!:

The singular vocalist Theo Bleckmann released a new disc today dedicated to the songs of English singer-songwriter Kate Bush. In other words, it’s an album where one inimitable singer with a small but dedicated fan base reinterprets another. There’s not much in the way of ding-ding-a-ling on Hello Earth! The Music of Kate Bush. But there is, perhaps, a jazz aesthetic: It grooves, and makes room for interactive improvisation from a talented band… I sensed a number of sympathies between Bleckmann and Bush, starting with their mutual taste for gorgeous idiosyncrasy. Butlike many Americans, I wasn’t too familiar with the source material. So I wrote to a big Kate Bush fan who happens to be my colleague: the esteemed pop critic Ann Powers, of NPR Music’sThe Record. Here’s the discussion we had …


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  1. Keith DeWeese

    Oh Lord…here we go. Journos at their most obnoxious.

  2. Keith DeWeese

    I know this is my 2nd comment in less than two minutes, but I have to say it: When I showed some friends who are new to Kate Bush but open-minded the vids of TB on YouTube, I was embarrassed. His mannered, affected take on Kate’s songs is so at odds with Kate’s sincere and genuine music, even on something as off-kilter (but delightful) as “Suspended in Gaffa” made us squirm. I’m really not sure why TB is getting this adulation. It seems kind of sad that so many members of Kate Bush’s audience will grab at such straws as if her work needs justification–Oh! Big whoop-dee-do, TB sang with Meredith Monk! (sarcasm intended.) Quite frankly, this whole New York music intelligentsia gives me a royal pain in the arse, and I won’t be purchasing Herr Bleckman’s recording. He’s no “dude” except as far as that term makes him seemingly but not truly “cool” or “bad.”

  3. Sharka

    I had the pleasure of attending Theo Bleckmann’s “Hello Earth” gig in Hanover, Germany, and I cannot relate to his “mannered, affected take on Kate’s songs” perceived by Keith. TB is an accomplished musician in his own right, and the entire audience realized that he is a big and sincere fan of Kate with nothing but deeply felt respect for her work. I talked to several jazz fans during the intermission, and many of them had heard nothing of Kate’s music prior to that November evening in 2011. Theo won her a couple of new fans, I dare say.

    My talk with Theo after the show (the Hanover Jazz Club is a small venue, and Theo plus band mingled with the audience later) confirmed what I felt during the entire show: A very gifted musician performing a very respectful and touching interpretation of some Kate’s greatest work. I know next to nothing about jazz, but I’d say: sophisticated, yes, but certainly not affected.

    I wonder if Kate has learned of his work (I asked Theo, and he didn’t know at the time). If she does, I bet she loves it.

    • Kent

      Well, sounds like I’m just doing all the wrong things. I bought this on iTunes, not at a local record store that might be participating in , and I like it a lot already. And I’m the other way around, I don’t think I’d heard of Theo Bleckmann before this news. Call me cloistered.

      But then, I preferred Director’s Cut too over some of the originals. And it took me years to listen to Candle In The Wind without grimacing (whereas Rocket Man, well that was just inspired. Best cover ever, imnsho, and I’m a Kate and Elton fan.) Just goes to show there’s no arguing about taste.

      What’s ‘affected’ about this that’s NOT (at least as) affected in KB’s originals? If we’re going to use that term, that is.

      • Kent

        sorry, @Sharka, not meant as a reply to you as such, just clicked the wrong button.

        • Sharka

          You wrote:

          What’s ‘affected’ about this that’s NOT (at least as) affected in KB’s originals? If we’re going to use that term, that is.

          I totally agree!

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