Theo Bleckmann: Hello Earth! The Music of Kate Bush

Great jazz singers are inveterate boundary-pushers, but even the boldest among them stop far short of the distances Theo Bleckmann travels. Over the past two decades, Bleckmann has created a singular pastiche that extends from Weimar cabaret and Italy’s Arte Povera movement to the songs of Charles Ives and dynamic partnerships with guitarist Ben Monder, pianist Fumio Yasuda and drummer-composer John Hollenbeck. It is hardly surprising that Bleckmann and Kate Bush are a match made in some Dalí-esque version of heaven.

Bleckmann digs deep into Bush’s first decade of work, drawing most heavily from her Hounds of Love, with emphasis on selections from the Tennyson-inspired Arthurian song cycle that fills that album’s second side. But to think of these as interpretations is to underestimate Bleckmann’s intent. Better to approach them as re-channeled dreamscapes. It’s as if he and his co-pilots-the brilliantly outré foursome of Hollenbeck, Henry Hey (piano, harpsichord, Fender Rhodes), Caleb Burhans (electric five-string violin, electric guitar) and Skúli Sverrisson (electric bass)-are space wanderers, bumping into 14 abstract installations and refracting them through their uniquely surreal perspectives.

Casting himself as Bush’s brother from another planet, Bleckmann remains true to both his source and himself. He is running up the same hills, battling (and embracing) the same ghosts and tilting at the same windmills, but viewing it all with the innocence of a different child’s eyes.