I’ve always had a particular delight for cover renditions of popular songs. Not just any old covers, though: I mean covers that take chances. Covers that risk taking a song in a completely new direction. Maybe the new version is a surprising genre shift, or an imaginative re-orchestration, or is seemingly chopped up and re-assembled, it all comes down to one definitive cliché: if it works, it works.
Here then is the first of what will be an ongoing series of posts called Got You Covered, showcasing audio clips of some of my favorite cover tracks. Future installments will appear at no particular time interval… but they will appear, I promise you. I have about 20 tracks lined up to use — I just prefer to spread ‘em out instead of running through all of them at once.
Many of you are surely familiar with Led Zeppelin’s driving, semi-orchestral song “Kashmir.” It is one of the band’s quintessential tracks — eight and a half sprawling minutes of wailing, mystical Led Zep bombast. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s about 30 seconds:
Here’s the backstory: a child prodigy on the instrument, Haimovitz was a world-class cello soloist by his mid-teens. He traveled the globe to play concert dates with the world’s most prestigious orchestras, and signed a rich recording contract. Soon, however, he began to feel stifled by both the limited traditional solo repertoire and the staid nature of the classical music business. In more recent years he has left behind the concert halls in favor of small clubs or cafes — venues where you’d normally expect to hear unsigned local bands or singer-songwriters — with the goal of bringing his music straight to audiences our age and younger. To illustrate this spirit, I selected the photo at left of him playing at the legendary New York punk rock club CBGB (now sadly defunct). A more detailed account of his career and other details can be read in this 2004 New York Times feature story. In addition to his alternative-space performing schedule, Haimovitz now teaches music at McGill University in Montréal, Quebec.
Clumsy Grab for Second-Degree Glory
Not included in the NYT article is the fact that Matt Haimovitz and yours truly played AYSO soccer against each other for a season or two back when we were 7 or 8 years old. I remember that he was fast, and a dangerous goal-scoring threat. I also clearly recall the distinctive rapid-fire stream of encouragement his father would yell from the sideline. Parents who cheered with extreme enthusiasm were far from unusual, but Mr. Haimovitz rolled out uninterrupted flows of exhortation lasting several minutes on end. That kind of breath control is just freaky. The constancy of his presto agitato exclamations was mirrored by the relentless speed of Matty’s play on the field. Good times.
But enough of my nostalgia — let’s get to the cello shredding. Please welcome Matt Haimovitz and Uccello, with special guests Constantinople and DJ Olive.
Both the Led Zeppelin and Haimovitz renditions of “Kashmir” are available for $0.99 at Amazon. There are Matt Haimovitz artist pages at Amazon and CDBaby. Haimovitz’s independent record label is Oxingale Records, which has a nice web site as well as a YouTube channel. Finally, Matt’s own home on the web is (you guessed it) www.matthaimovitz.com.