Interpreters & Music Makers
Art Tatum and Ahmad Jamal are prime examples of the former. Either can take a standard and remake it, make it sound as if new, giving that old song a facelift - a sort of keeping the old new and up-to-date. In this, they are similar to the classical pianists whose main objective lies in interpreting the great works of the classical repertoire. This is their way of making music and not a small task, if you care to know. The interpreter has to know a bit about the composer of the song, and deal not only with the history of the song and its prior interpretations, but also deal with his own inclinations both as musician and interpreter - not to mention that he has also to take into consideration the instrument he plays and what instrument or instruments the song was originally composed for. Indeed, much of jazz is reinterpretation as much as it is improvisation.
Jazz artists such as Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk, however, belong to the latter. They are not concerned with reinterpretation, but with the making of the new, with the making of those songs that have no history, with those pieces that in due time could become standards, could be passed on by the interpreters, the first kind, to future generations. These also having many variables to consider before embarking towards their objective and bumping into a success here and there, the difficulty of this task not needing of words, here, or my defense.
This dichotomy, relationship, therefore, results in a two-way street where both groups complement each other and are as important to the greater whole, enriching not just jazz and art, but our lives, too, in the process. Yet, regardless of whether some belong to one or the other or both for that matter, both groups, elements, are indispensable to the continual growth of jazz or any art form; and both, most importantly, have to take into consideration the audience, those for whom they are playing, us - both have to respect the always - present covenant between performer and listener. For in jazz, as in any music genre, all musicians play for an audience and not just for the sake of themselves.