Blair Big Band presents the music of Radiohead

Blair+Big+Band+presents+the+music+of+Radiohead

Justine Hong

It’s the best thing that you’ve ever had; the best thing that you’ve ever, ever had. – “High and Dry”
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It’s impossible to go wrong with Radiohead and jazz. Certainly, the two are wonderful in themselves, but put them together and you simply get heaven. Although I may be a little biased; I’ve been a devoted Radiohead fan since seventh grade. But it couldn’t have been just teen angst that drove me to the intense British band because otherwise, I would not still be listening to them seven years later. And I would certainly not be hearing continual reinterpretations of their timeless music. (Yes, timeless; at this point, I’m convinced they’re the best band in the world.) Indeed, little had I known that I would find myself in Ingram Hall on a Thursday night, experiencing yet another compelling rendition of the band’s greatest hits by none other than the Blair Big Band.

Immediately, the concert started off with a bang. “Bodysnatchers,” already one of Radiohead’s more energetic songs, was ramped up to a whole new level by the impressive brass section. Next, the band launched into one of the most spirited interpretations of “Paranoid Android” I’d ever heard. The brass crescendos were overwhelming, intensifying the strange, ironic tone of the original song. Then the music waxed jazzy through a smoky and capricious piano solo, perfectly appropriate for the original song’s mournful middle section. Finally, the prolonged emotional buildup of the recapitulation was fierce, keeping me on the edge of my seat till its grand release and finale.

Almost immediately, the Big Band’s rendition of “Everything in its Right Place” struck me as unique. Certainly, the opening notes of the original were preserved, but instead of evoking the technological bizarreness often characteristic of Radiohead, the Blair band’s interpretation was rather mellow, almost calming. Later, the music took a turn toward the uplifting, until the saxophone solo began, slow and almost sultry. When the soloist picked up the pace, the song became classy, showcasing how Radiohead would sound as hotel jazz music, that is, heavenly.

Finally, after the solos faded, the band became quieter, subtler—followed by sudden blasts by the brass section. Several people turned their heads, wondering. Perhaps these erratic blasts were a nod to “The National Anthem?” Regardless, there was something artistic about them, and for a moment we were brought back to the tasteful strangeness of Radiohead.

Sometime later, the band played “High and Dry,” which became one of my favorite parts of the concert. The interpretation was optimistic and uplifting, a significant deviation from the original as no Radiohead song is sanguine. The performance of this song was, simply put, a feast for the soul. Whenever the band held the high note in the refrain (“Don’t leave me high), a kind of warmth seemed to pervade the hall, like sunlight piercing through the trees. It made me realize that it’s the simplest joys—good music, jazz renditions, nights out—that often constitute the best thing I’ve ever, ever had. topbankinfo