At various times, Radiohead have cited the influence of jazz on their post-Bends recordings, with Jonny Greenwood singling out the influence of Bitches Brew on OK Computer. The influence has worked both ways, of course, with the likes of Brad Mehldau and Robert Glasper reinterpreting Radiohead tunes over the years. Pianist Rick Simpson (Leo Richardson Quartet, many others) has gone one stage further, and revisited the whole Kid A album - a record which was considered divisive at the time, but stands up as one of their finest. The idea stemmed from a generous invitation by the Vortex Jazz Club to rewrite popular albums for a series of shows.
To help him on this ambitious project, Simpson assembled a stellar cast - Tori Freestone on tenor saxophone and violin, James Allsop on baritone saxophone, Dave Whitford on double bass and Will Glaser on drums. The first point to note is that whilst Simpson started with electronic music, then ventured into jazz, this is very much a jazz project. If you're a Radiohead fan, there's plenty to admire here, but I don't think you have to be a fan of the original album to enjoy this. which brings me to the second point - Simpson has let his imagination run riot here. Whilst some tracks mirror the originals, the majority do not, and merely serve as a springboard to explore ideas and themes from the original compositions. So if you do like the original album, you'll find yourself flitting back between the two, wondering where the ideas came from.
Opener Everything In Its Right Place opens with piano, rather than synthesiser, with the band playing it fairly straight to begin with, led by the twin saxophones of Freestone and Allsop, before venturing into pastures new, as it becomes more 'free' at the end. Kid A keeps to the melody of the original, but still manages to sound totally different without the chattering electronic beats. The National Anthem gives Simpson a chance to shine, with some fine playing over the driving beat of Will Glaser, with the saxophones providing more of a riff here.
Listen to Everything In Its Right Place here:
Sensibly, Simpson does not play around too much with the beauty of How To Disappear Completely. Freestone doubles up on violin and tenor here, whilst Simpson's playing is delicate and restrained. There's an unexpected Latin vibe to Optimistic, which works surprisingly well, with Simpson and Freestone taking turns to dance through the beats. Idioteque is fantastic, the musicians again given more of a free rein and there's a duel between Freestone and Allsop which is exciting to listen to. The delicate Motion Picture Soundtrack brings the album to a close, with Freestone playing over the fluttering piano of Simpson and drums of Glaser.
I've spent lockdown trying to mix listening to new music whilst catching up on older records too, and this album almost allows me to do both at the same time. As a fan of the original, I was excited by Simpson's concept, but he has massively exceeded expectations, and I was blown away by both his playing and invention on this album. Everything All Of The Time is one of my jazz albums of the year. Highly recommended.