Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” has such a memorable opening riff that whether it’s covered by a high school marching band or Pat Boone, it’s instantly recognizable. The latest artist to take the trip to “Montreux on the Lake Geneva shoreline” is jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut, who included an instrumental cover on his new album Kaleidoscope.
Chestnut is not the first jazz artist to take on Deep Purple’s classic (Google “Smoke on the Water” Jazz Covers if you really need to hear more). But in his five-minute cover he takes the song in a number of experimental directions. So much so that if drug-addled ‘70s rock fans were suddenly transplanted to a Chestnut concert they might have their minds collectively blown.
The track opens with a quick rattle on the high hat, then a steady stream of high-pitched notes as if to imitate the pouring rain. Chestnut then slams on the deep bass notes of the piano, blasting the tune’s immortal intro. The music quickly veers away from the melody, with a heavy focus on the interplay of piano, bass and drums. All throughout, Chestnut keeps evoking that classic riff “duh, duh, da, duh-duh-da-daa” again and again as if to keep the solos from going too far out. Just after the midpoint in the song, the group briefly slow it down to about half-tempo and then speeds it up for a bombastic finish.
On the album, Chestnut places the track in between two works by French avant-garde pianist and composer Erik Satie. Is he making a profound statement that Deep Purple is now officially a part of the classical canon to be considered alongside serious works? Maybe. Or, perhaps he’s just having a little fun.
Click here to listen to more Deep Purple covers.