116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Transforming pop tunes into jaunty jazz songs and quirky ballads isn't new. Scott Bradlee, the leader of Postmodern Jukebox, is taking a page from jazz musicians of the 1930s.
It's not surprising that Bradlee, 40, an inveterate jazz enthusiast, would turn contemporary hits into swingin' retro-sounding numbers, since jazz musicians love to improvise.
Bradlee and his band have revamped hundred of pop songs since forming a decade ago in New York City. Meghan Trainor's “All About That Bass” has morphed into “All About That (Upright) Bass.” Bradlee turned Gloria Jones’ “Tainted Love“ into a jazzy ragtime tune. He made Tears for Fears’ ”Everybody Wants to Rule the World“ into a piano cover.
“There's a lot of room for creativity and originality with the pop songs,” Postmodern Jukebox bassist Adam Kubota said by phone from Midland, Texas. He and his bandmates will show off that artistry at the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids on Sunday night, Dec. 12, 2021.
Some of the latest songs they have altered include the Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” and the Pixies’ “Where is my Mind.” Taylor Swift's “Bad Blood” is a good example of how inspired Bradlee and company are when rearranging a song. Their version of the Swift smash sounds like it’s delivered by Duke Ellington’s Big Band.
“It's a great deal of fun for us to remake these amazing songs,” Kubota said. “We step out of the box and have a blast.”
The zenith of the show for Kubota is when he lays out a bass solo during "All About That (Upright) Bass.“
“Doing something different is good,” he said. “When you cover a song, why repeat what the recording artists who wrote it, did?”
If the pianist/arranger's passion was milquetoast, Postmodern Jukebox wouldn’t exist. While growing up in central New Jersey, Bradlee discovered ragtime and fell completely in love with jazz at age 12, after discovering George Gershwin.
He made waves in 2013 by turning Miley Cyrus’ “We Can't Stop” into a doo-wop tune. Music fans discovered his YouTube clip, which became a viral sensation.
Some recording artists have reacted to Bradlee's jazz treatment. Beyonce shared his version of “Drunk in Love” on social media.
It’s all been possible thanks to YouTube and the internet. The rotating musical collective has amassed more than 1.4 billion views on YouTube and 5 million subscribers. Bradlee never could have imagined such a platform back when he transformed Nirvana songs as ragtime rave-ups as a teenager.
“I’m just thankful that this thing happened with Scott,” Kubota said. “To me, so much of this is about the live experience. You haven't experienced Postmodern Jukebox unless you've seen us live. We have a vocal ensemble. Everyone is a star in their own right on that stage. We have tap dancers up there, there are solos — we bring the show."
Who knows what Postmodern Jukebox will cover next?
“The great thing is that the possibilities are endless,” Kubota said. “There are so many genres out there. Nothing is off limits for us. What I love is that we're not adhering to what the industry is looking for. We don't let the industry or anyone define us. So what we present is a truly liberating experience.”
For those who would like to follow in Bradlee's footsteps, check out his entertaining and insightful memoir, “Outside the Jukebox: How I Turned my Vintage Music Obsession Into My Dream Gig,” which hit shelves in 2018.
“There is simply no one like Scott and no band like Postmodern Jukebox,” Kubota said.