Pop Zeus: Jann Klose Live
For those starving for something different than the stale marketing-obsessed commercial music scenes, be it cynic-hipster indie rock (and its various sub categories), gangsta pop, or whatever, the Jann Klose show at the Bitter End on July 5 offered a glimpse of what pop was and be again. Those of us lucky enough to be in the audience witnessed something more rare in the music world than inspiration - good old-fashioned, musically sharp pop music. By pop I mean in the sense of the Beatles, the Monkees, Motown records, and the Police, with some electric Jeff Buckley to give the music some gravitas.
The songs were full of great melodies and chord changes that swept the listener along on a tuneful musical journey that was surprising, honest, innocent, and real, with a sophisticated musicality that gave the audience more than the crass and the obvious. Jann Klose's lyrics painted vivid and recognizable pictures that, unlike almost all pop music seen and heard today, were actually rooted in real life. And it is rare to hear lyrics at a live show at all, especially when sung in the band leader's smooth tenor.
The show started with "Beautiful Dream", which brought to mind the old-school white soul Tony Joe White, who blended electrified Memphis soul with guitar pop, while writing hits for soul singers like Brook Benton and Bobbie Gentry.
"Black Box," which followed, highlighted amazing vocal skill on the swooping melody and an organ solo by keyboardist Roberta Piket (a musical heavyweight, with a vast musical resume of her own, primarily as a jazz pianist), and was anchored by the stellar rhythm section of Pat Carmichael on drums and Chris Marolf on bass.
Klose's entire band have their own groups and extensive and varied experiences with different musical styles, particularly jazz. And herein lies the rub: the biggest plague on music today, pop being the most infected, is a pervasive lack of skill and knowledge about music.
Music is our country's greatest gift to the world. It takes American know-how (from Jann, a worldly German) to create and perform songs like "One Little Chance"
an Americana blues rocker, and "Doing Time," which is a lazy country rock waltz which would have been covered by Robbie Robertson and the Band in 1976. The melody is sincere without being sappy and fit the words:
I walk the line / The arms of time / Change the day/ Turn the hour/ I'm in a maze/ Nobody here/ No memory left/ It disappeared/ I look for the days I remember, a heavenly piece of my mind/ But I can't walk where I can't see I won't pretend this isn't me/ Feels like I'm just doing time."
Inspiration and mad skills were evident in the epic pop song. "Question of the Heart," which started with Ms. Piket playing a long piano benediction that got the biggest ovation of the night, and went through various stages that can't be recounted, but evoked feelings that can be recalled.
With interesting arrangements, subtle instrument playing, clear vocals, and the touches of class that only experienced and trained musicians can bring, Jann Klose and band reinvented your daddy's pop music. That's why most new music sucks; it's completely dumbed down. That in itself was the revelation of the show: it's possible to create great pop music, music with tunes you can hum, something for the head, and evocations for the heart.
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