The Roots’ new album undun is a concept album about a man named Redford Stephens, and as it turns out, that particular concept comes from another concept album — a very celebrated one at that. To hear Roots drummer/bandleader ?uestlove tell it, the band named the character after “Redford,” a short instrumental piece from the Sufjan Stevens album Michigan. And on the final track from undun, also titled “Redford,” the band takes Sufjan’s instrumental, and, with some help from Sufjan himself, they turn it into a sprawling four-movement work. We’ve got three of those movements streaming below.
On the first movement, “Redford,” Sufjan plays the song alone on piano. And in the ensuing two movements, Questo, a string quartet, and an avant-garde pianist all offer their takes on it. Listen to the tracks and read Questlove’s explanation below.
Here’s what ?uestlove told Spin:
We’ve always loved the song “Redford” from Michigan. So we close the new album with a cover of “Redford.” We stretched it out into this four-part movement. Part 1 is Sufjan at the piano performing it. And then Part 2 is a string quartet that we had interpret it. Part 3 is myself and D.D. Jackson, who is an avant-garde piano player. He’s probably one of the most dangerous pianists — I don’t know how he doesn’t have carpal tunnel now. But he just destroys, literally, destroys the piano. The final movement, which ends the record, is essentially the beginning of the story. But it’s the last thing you hear. It’s a very powerful piece of work.