Thursday, June 16, 2011

The New Standards

Chan Poling, John Munson, Steve Roehm

It isn't everyday I can walk to a concert, much less one by a cutting edge group. The New Standards play re-imagined versions of "modern" pop songs in the format of a jazz trio: piano, bass and vibraphone. Chan (founding member of The Suburbs and John (founding member of Semisonic) share the vocals and all three members trade solos on such unlikely tunes as Gnarls Barkley's Crazy, Little Richard's Tutti Frutti, and even a poignant cover of the show tune On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

The crowd at the Lyric Arts Theater in Anoka, Minnesota (my home town) was delighted. Even the presence of former Vice-President Walter Mondale in the audience couldn't detract from the Standards command of their high-concept material.

One of the knocks against pop music is that is doesn't "grow up"; not many songs in recent years become "new standards". Most acts are so heavily produced (and lightweight) that they don't have the nerve or the chops to cover their contemporaries. The New Standards have the chops, maybe they could use a little more nerve on the vocals (or was it just a bad mix?) but their records are great, they are popular, and their shows are fun, not an endurance trial. Even if they are "grown up".

By Professor Batty


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