Inbox Jukebox Track of the Day: A Bold Cover of Mingus’s “Meditation on a Pair of Wire-Cutters” by the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde – TheStranger.com

Hynde is no jazz pretender.

Hynde is no jazz pretender. Jill Furmanovsky

Chrissie Hynde with the Valve Bone Woe Ensemble, “Meditation on a Pair of Wire-Cutters” (BMG)

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Not sure many saw this coming, but the Pretenders’ frontwoman Chrissie Hynde has a covers album due for release on September 6 titled Valve Bone Woe, which she recorded with an ensemble of the same name. It includes songs by Frank Sinatra, Charles Mingus, Brian Wilson, Hoagy Carmichael, John Coltrane, Nick Drake, Ray Davies, and Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Up on YouTube right now you can hear the 1941 jazz standard “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and the Beach Boys’ “Caroline, No,” both languid, seductive ballads executed with tastefulness and, with the latter, subtle psychedelic touches. But I would like to review Hynde and company’s version of Mingus’s boisterous bebop piece, “Meditation (for a Pair of Wire Cutters),” (Chrissie renders the title slightly differently) because it veers outside of what Hynde has done throughout her four-decade career.

“Meditation (for a Pair of Wire Cutters)” originally appeared on Right Now: Live at the Jazz Workshop, which the bassist/composer recorded in 1964 in San Francisco. That track encompasses nearly 24 minutes of byzantine invention. Hynde condenses it to 200 seconds. She emphasizes the stealthy, tensile bass line while adding tantalizing percussion textures and oneiric wind instruments. The Valve Bone Woe Ensemble transform Mingus’s raw materials into an easily digestible and dynamically exciting reverie. This version is such a balletic sashay of a song; Hynde’s radical departure from her best-known moves really pays off.

About this new direction, Hynde told Clash magazine:

I’m not hugely interested in branching out into other musical genres, being a devout rock singer as such, but jazz is something I grew up around (thanks to my bro) and I’ve always had a soft spot for it. I often bemoan what I regard as a decline in melody in popular music and I wanted to sing melodies.

Plus, I have a penchant for cover songs, it’s the surprise of singing something that I didn’t think of writing myself that turns me on. Jazz got side-lined by Rock & Roll in the 60’s, but now the demise of rock seems to be heralding in a newfound interest in it, the most creative and innovative musical forms of the 20th century. I’m happy to jump on the bandwagon.

Valve Bone Woe Track List
1. “How Glad I Am”
2. “Caroline, No”
3. “I’m a Fool to Want You”
4. “I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes)”
5. “Meditation on a Pair of Wire Cutters”
6. “Once I Loved”
7. “Wild Is the Wind”
8. “You Don’t Know What Love Is”
9. “River Man”
10. “Absent Minded Me”
11. “Naima”
12. “Hello, Young Lovers”
13. “No Return”
14. “Que Reste-t-il de Nos Amours?” Original »

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