Once, many years ago, when I was describing Paranoid to a friend who was skeptical of Black Sabbath, I used the term “jazzy” (or, perhaps, “relatively jazzy”). He scoffed. (He was probably thinking of the title track and thought I was crazy). I was referring, specifically, to Butler and Ward, who I felt played their early metal with a lot more swing than you might expect “metal” to have. To me, parts of Paranoid, and some other early Sabbath albums, have long sounded friendly to jazz.
Well someone has finally gone and done it. And it works. Not all the tracks are from Paranoid but half of them are. And the others also make sense in this context. This is something that has always felt somewhat obvious to me (not that I ever told anyone about it!) so I’m glad these guys are here to prove I wasn’t crazy in hearing something jazz-like in my early listens to Paranoid. (It took me years to ever listen to another Sabbath album. That’s another story.)
It’s mostly piano trio stuff, with a little bit of guitar thrown in here and there. I can leave the guitar, honestly, and I think that’s one of the weaknesses of this album. It doesn’t need it, the piano trio stuff works plenty well enough. But this is a minor nitpick. On the whole, this music is just excellent, what you want out of this kind of project, where jazz musicians cover seemingly unlikely music.
As a pretty straight bop version of early metal, it works extremely well. (There’s a little bit of funk to “Evil Woman,” even though it’s still very much a bop performance. Call it neo hard bop, I guess?) And it’s quite fun. Especially the, um, “liner” notes, which are just fantastic. (All sacred cows should be treated this way by other artists.)