OF all the left-field creative projects to come out of the Perth lockdown, a Radiohead big band seems one of the most outré.
The seminal English rock group are renowned for their melancholic, introspective songs while most of us associate big bands with brash, up-beat dance numbers.
But Jessica Herbert, founder of the The Amnesiacs (Radiohead Big Band), says contemporary big bands are very versatile and play a huge variety of songs with different moods and inflections.
“Modern big band jazz has changed dramatically since the days of dance halls,” Herbert says.
“If you’re unfamiliar with the music of Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeeley or Mace Francis, to name a few, I encourage you to go out and discover what has been happening in big band composition for some time now.
“The versatility of the big band instrumentation allows for an expansive range of expression and emotion, a perfect fit for the moodiness and melancholy of many Radiohead songs.”
From OK Computer onwards Radiohead used more advanced chord progressions and harmonies, writing several tracks that doffed their cap to jazz like Pyramid Song and Life In a Glasshouse.
Herbert, who plays baritone saxophone, says she have been a massive fan of the band for years and was searching for a way to pay tribute.
“The Amnesiacs was formed during the short-lived COVID lockdowns in June,” she says.
“The threat of not being able to perform live music together for a long time made me realise that there’s no time like the present to get the ball rolling on projects that have been in the back of my mind for some time.
“There are many parallels between Radiohead music and jazz creating an incredible synergy between the two.
“Playing big band jazz has always been somewhat of a sanctuary for me, it’s just such a versatile beast and I couldn’t think of a better way to truly do this music justice.”
Consisting of 19 Perth musicians including Sean Little, Kate Pass, Ricki Malet and some members of the WA Youth Jazz Orchestra, The Amnesiacs will perform their debut gig at the Perth International Jazz Festival on Friday (November 6) at the State Theatre Courtyard.
The festival runs from Friday to Sunday and includes a bevy of great acts like Libby Hammer, Tom O’Halloran, Chris McNulty, and the Cotton Club Dance Party.
Herbert says she is excited about The Amnesiacs’ debut gig and thinks Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke would approve.
“It’s no secret that jazz has been a huge influence on Radiohead and their compositional style and vice versa with many world-renowned jazz musicians including Robert Glasper, Chris Potter and Brad Mehldau all performing and recording covers of Radiohead.
“I think Thom would be pretty stoked to know his music inspires so many musicians from all genres, all around the world.
“My favourite Radiohead song to perform is Everything In Its Right Place.
“It’s the first Radiohead song I heard and the piece that inspired me to start The Amnesiacs.”
The Amnesiacs gig is free and starts at 7.30pm.
For more info on the jazz festival go to perthjazzfest.com
by STEPHEN POLLOCK