By Sam Brunson
Yesterday, driving my son to swim lessons, I flipped my radio to WDCB, Chicagoland’s jazz radio station. An organ trio was playing something that sounded vaguely familiar. And then they returned to the melody, and it was the Beatles’s “Taxman.” And just like that, two of my favorite things—jazz and taxes—intersected.
Several months ago, Leandra did a great post on the history and context of “Taxman.” And her post yesterday on taxes in a series of novels got me thinking about how often tax shows up in jazz. When I posted about the musical tax canon, I mentioned Fats Waller’s “We the People,” but here, I specifically wanted to look for jazz covers of “Taxman.” And I found two:
This is the song (or, at least, the beginning of the song) I heard on the radio. It’s on organissimo‘s new album, B3tles – A Soulful Tribute to the Fab Four.[fn1] Other than this song, I’m entirely unfamiliar with organissimo; it’s worth noting, though, that, as you listen along, the song should sound slightly off. That’s because the famous bass line has been changed from 4/4 time to 7/8 time (at least in some parts); the band’s basically dropping an eighth note and pushing the remaining melody together.
And it’s really nice. I mean, as soon as the song ended and the DJ said who played it, I started repeating “organissimo” and “B3tles” to myself for the rest of the drive, just to make sure I could find it. I’m not 100% sure I’m going to buy the album—I want to listen to other songs on it first—but there’s a reasonable change I’ll be the proud owner of this version of “Taxman” in the near future.
Interestingly enough, the other jazz version of “Taxman” I found was also an organ trio. Unlike organissimo, though, I was familiar with Soulive; I never owned any of their albums, but they fit alongside the jam bands (like the String Cheese Incident) that I listened to at the end of high school and beginning of college. Soulive does a pretty straight-ahead cover, with great guitar and organ solos, but without changing the structure of the music.
I didn’t do an exhaustive search. (Actually, that’s an overstatement: I did a quick Google search on my phone while waiting for my son to be finished.) So am I missing anything? (I mean, yes, I am: I know, for example, that Stevie Ray Vaughn has a great blues cover, on that I probably heard before I heard the Beatles’s original.) Have any other jazz groups recorded a version of “Taxman”? And have any non-organ trios done it?
[fn1] The album’s name is really clever, actually: the organ player plays a Hammond B-3 organ, thus “B3tles” rather than “Beatles.”