PLAINS TWP. — Wayne Krantz has built a career as a distinctive guitarist and composer of jazz/rock fusion. He’s released critically acclaimed original records and became known as a master of improvisation. Now, he’s having some fun playing covers.
Krantz performs at 9 p.m. Oct. 8 with his trio 2x Salvation at the River Street Jazz Cafe on his “Undercover Pop Tour.” With drummer Zach Danziger and bassist Kevin Scott, Krantz plans to deliver improvised renditions of songs by a diverse bunch of known acts including Sonic Youth, Talib Kweli, Talking Heads and Jethro Tull.
Krantz, whose talents have been pulled to collaborate with Donald Fagen and Steely Dan, focused on his original work and developing good trios with albums like 1993’s “Long to Be Loose” and 2009’s “Krantz Carlock Levebvre,” but a residency at New York City’s famed 55 Bar from 1995 to 2007 led to both increased exposure and fun experimentation.
“I’ve hardly done covers in my professional life,” Krantz said. “It’s always been my own stuff, but there was this one period years ago, where, just for the heck of it, I was hiring completely different bands and covering a single artist every week down at the 55.”
Krantz said he enjoyed using the songs of other artists as the basic structure for improvisational sets, but he didn’t do it after that short period during his 55 Bar residency.
He would go on to make one of his most celebrated records in 2012, “Howie 61.” The album features jazz, blues and rock fusion titans like Pino Palladino, Tal Wilkenfeld and Vinnie Colaiuta, and is primarily an original record.
“Because it’s a more produced record, and it’s more than a trio in most cases, when I toured ‘Howie 61,’ I ended up rewriting a lot of that music, turning into a trio version of itself, which allowed for more improvising in it.”
The follow up to ‘Howie,’ however, brought Krantz back to working with covers as he recorded two versions of each of four songs with two different trios on “Good Piranha/Bad Piranha.” Songs included works by M.C. Hammer, Ice Cube, Pendulum and Thom Yorke.
Krantz called the album a “document” of the concept he used at 55 Bar.
“That was a couple years ago, and this year, we wanted to play, but we didn’t have a new record out,” Krantz said. “The label wanted us to have some kind of angle on it, and they brought up the idea of doing covers.”
Krantz said his first instinct was to say no, but he thought it through and realized it could be fun.
“It’s actually a blast,” Krantz said. “I’m having a good time with it.”
On a later leg of the tour Krantz will bring in bassist Nate Wood, who worked with him on “Piranha,” in a trio called Star Truck, but, he said, he’s looking forward to touring with Scott for the first time during the portion of the tour that takes them through the Jazz.
“Everybody I talked to was talking about this guy,” Krantz said of Scott. “We got together, and I immediately realized it was going to work great.”
Krantz calls Danziger, “a phenomenal drummer.”
“Nobody plays like this guy,” Krantz said. “It’s really incredible.”
Krantz and 2x Salvation bring their jazz trio sensibility to tunes by Prince, Nine Inch Nails, Bob Dylan, Mos Def and more on Oct. 8.
“I feel confident in saying this band in not going to sound like very many other bands you’ve heard,” Krantz said. “We have a distinct thing happening, and we’re casting our line out there, hoping people will come to check it out.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts
If you go:
What: Wayne Krantz and 2x Salvation on their Undercover Pop Tour with opening act Jmmy featuring John Kimock of the Mike Gordon Band and Justin Mazer of American Babies.
Where: River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 North River Street, Plains Township
When: Doors open at 7 p.m. Oct. 8. Music starts at 9 p.m.
Additional information: Tickets cost $15 and are available at riverstreetjazzcafe.com or at the door the evening of the show.