As we mark the 45th birthday of one of music’s most indelible spirits, I reminisce over a voice that transcended race. Through the work of Kurt Cobain erupted the angst of society’s newest “lost generation.”

His catalogue is a timeless one, reflecting the innumerable artists citing his influence. But, this impact went far beyond rock music. I’ve often felt that when a record can be levied through the lens of jazz, it is undeniably sound in composition (see: Michael Jackson’s “I Can’t Help It,” Radiohead’s “Exit Music (for a Film)”).

Disregarding my potential musical elitism, I couldn’t help but be pleased by Robert Glasper’s recognition of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The song, originally recorded in 1991, is the definitive soundtrack to the existential turmoil of adolescence.

This live take, performed in preparation of the studio version accompanying the band’s upcoming release, does not capture the same sort of rock-driven aggression of Cobain’s classic. But, it is an homage worth a closer look.

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The collective breathes new life into a composition irrefutably tormented. It conceives the underlying beauty overlooked in the past. As I reflect on yet another genius prematurely lost, I am thankful that the music doesn’t stop when the artist passes on.

Written By: Paul Pennington

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