From the minute I heard that Mostly Other People Do the Killing was doing a note-for-note cover of Kind of Blue I was impressed. I kind of wished I’d thought of doing it myself.
Jazz tends to mirror trends in the art world to a certain extent. But what jazz has been conceptual art? As in, the idea and context matters more than an objective look at the material? That it exists almost solely to provoke discussion?
To be clear, most satirical or humorous jazz like The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s “Walking in the Moonlight” isn’t really conceptual art. John Zorn playing free jazz alto on top of a Sonny Clark tune is certainly “conceptual,” but I don’t think Voodoo is really conceptual art, either. Archie Shepp honking “Girl From Ipanema” in response to Stan Getz? Yeah, almost…but it also just sounds like plenty of other Archie Shepp. If there’s a concept, it’s less important than the natural individuality of the tenor player.
Usually the word “jazz” ends up getting almost irrelevant to most conceptual jazz-related work. Anthony Braxton outside with 100 tubas: that’s conceptual art for sure, but at least I don’t think it has all that much to do with jazz. Braxton’s extremely strange jazz standards on piano is closer, but I wouldn’t be unduly surprised if Braxton just feels like playing piano in a quartet sometimes.
Probably there are other examples I don’t know. But surely there is nothing so blatant as Blue by Mostly Other People Do the Killing. This is conceptual art with the heart of jazz fully in the frame.
I’m blogging about it mainly because I have heard so many musicians and fans react in horror. I’m afraid to tell all these folks this, but it’s true: You have already had a sincere and strong reaction to the conceptual art, so therefore you have already validated the work.
I don’t really like Blue, of course. How could I? But it is definitely a strong statement. When I can, I’ll grab it and happily file it my CD collection. It will probably go in the jazz section…
Sam Newsome blogged recently on a relevant topic: “What’s the Deal with Interview Music?”