"Lovefool", the buttery, sumptuous new retro jazz cover of the Cardigan's original 1996 Top 40 hit single, is the 4th collaboration between Haley Reinhart and Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox (Habits, All About That Bass, Creep), and the 4th time this dynamic duo has smashed it out of the park. It most certainly will not be the last.At the risk of sounding grossly hyperbolic, we may just be looking at the new faces of a full blown jazz rebirth in popular music.
Haley Reinhart & Scott Bradlee are not just the biggest new thing in jazz today, they are the biggest thing to happen to jazz popularity in decades. How big are they?
- They have owned the iTunes Jazz charts since Habits crashed into the Top 5 in January.
- Currently, all of their recordings are in the Top 30, while Lovefool and Creep remain entrenched in the Top 5.
- On YouTube, the 4 videos have 12 million combined views and that number is growing fast.
- Their arrangement of Creep was copied by a performer on The Voice finals.
- They have received effusive critical acclaim from major music review sites like Billboard, Time and Yahoo.
Clearly there's something is going on here. If you look at the jazz charts today, there's virtually no new music or artists besides them, and no artists so young (Reinhart 24, Bradlee 33).
Of course, Bradlee's PMJ enjoyed substantial success prior to teaming with Reinhart. His cheeky, vintage arrangements of modern hit songs has clearly struck a chord with both young and old.
Bradlee's first viral YouTube ("Ragtime Interpretations of 80's Hits") took off in 2010. Afterward, he began doing vintage takes on other modern hits, including a Motown tribute of Nickleback and a few live performances featuring vocals by singers he knew or had worked with.
In early 2013, Bradlee began the modern era of Postmodern Jukebox. Adding NY singer and personal friend Robyn Anderson as lead vocalist as well as upgrading the production, things started to really take off. Their cover of Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" became a YouTube smash hit with over 7 million views.
Bradlee did not sit still after this first taste of success, and continued to prolifically add new cover videos with styles as varied and diverse as Klezmer, 70's Soul, Motown, Doo-Wop, Bluegrass and, of course, his beloved Vintage Jazz. In doing this, Bradlee showed a command of vintage American music far beyond that of the Ragtime that started it all.
As the months progressed, Bradlee demonstrated sharp business acumen, continuing to strike while the iron was hot. By promoting PMJ via guerrilla marketing, social media, live national appearances, countless interviews and tireless touring he was able to recruite some the best talent most people never heard of as singers and performers. Artists like highly respected bassist/singer Kate Davis, sultry Ariana Savales and gorgeous, powerhouse vocalist Morgan James elevated PMJ to still another level.
In late 2014, Bradlee bumped into jazz-hipster former American Idol finalist Casey Abrams. Abrams offered the playful showmanship and expert musicianship that was a perfect fit for Scott's bawdy live shows and videos, as well as a fairly sizable online fan base to help increase awareness for PMJ.
Casey has since recorded two well received and successful PMJ songs/videos (Stacy's Mom, I'm Not The Only One) and several cameos, but perhaps his biggest contribution of all was introducing Scott to an incredibly gifted, once-in-a-generation jazz vocalist: The stunningly beautiful Haley Reinhart.
Herself an American Idol finalist and best friend (perhaps more?) of Abrams, Haley is a jazz educated performer with a resume that includes the Montreux Jazz Festival, a nationally televised performance with Tony Bennett, and a feature Carnegie Hall performance with Grammy Award winning Jazz musician Irvin Mayfield Jr.
With natural instincts for scatting and jazz intonation, an unlimited range, a playful, sexy vixen persona, and a luscious vocal tone that's like a warm oil massage of the auditory senses, she was the ultimate find for Scott. Bradlee is himself a master director and pianist who has a similarly instinctive, unteachable "feel" for arranging vintage music.
What's created between them is not so much throwback as it is timeless. I cannot imagine a more compatible collaboration of talent and style than Scott and Haley, and what we're seeing unfold is the ground floor of something very special. Jazz has been stuck in time for decades, almost a secret society for a select few to appreciate. Well, times are a changin'.
This dynamic duo is at the right place at the right time to become the new faces of a popular, postmodern rebirth of jazz, and I personally cannot wait to see what this young superstar team has in store for us next.