Imagine coming home from work to find the furniture in your house was moved and say, your tooth brush is now on the other side of the bathroom sink. A few inches here, and a few inches there. Would you notice? Maybe yes, if you had been gone just a day. What happens in the same scenario if you returned after a month's vacation. You may never discern the change.
Now, consider Mostly Other People Do The Killing's note-for-note remake of Miles Davis
' seminal recording Kind Of Blue
(Columbia, 1959). Is that month-long absence what Moppa Elliott
's quintet is going for?
The band, which is known for painting the musical equivalent of a mustache on the Mona Lisa, takes on the task of actually painting La Gioconda. Play Blue
for any unknowing jazz fan, and I dare say they won't recognize this counterfeit edition.
So, what is the point of this exercise? The liner notes to the disc, a reprinting of Jorge Luis Borges satirical piece "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote," hint at the answer. Borges writes a glowing review of a word-for-word recreation of Cervantes text. Citing Menard's work, with tongue-in-cheek, as anything but plagairism, Borges' spoof calls us, not to worship heroes, but to kill them. Because to glorify them, we have in effect destroyed our own creativity.
MOPDTK is perhaps one of the most unorthodox bohemian bands working today. Their technical skills, as evidenced here (and in their previous six discs), are superlative. By recreating, not just the notes, but the sound of Miles' recording, Elliott suggests (like Borges) that imitation of our heroes alone equals death. Calling jazz, "America's classical music," is commensurate with musical taxidermy. Blue
is not the same treatment as director Gus Van Sant's shot- for-shot remake of Hitchcock's film Psycho
. MOPDTK copies the sound. For instance, John Coltrane
's off-mic entrance on "Freddie Freeloader" is faithfully reproduced by Jon Irabagon
, as is every other feature of the original. What MOPDTK has done is demanding and esoteric. But it is not jazz and, importantly, they know it.
Perhaps a better accompanying text for this recording would be Tom McCarthy's book Remainder
, in which the protagonist spends a million dollar insurance settlement reconstructing and re-enacting a scene from his life. Of course, he fails each time because once a moment has passed, it's gone. Same for a jazz performance as renowned as Kind Of Blues
: it is quite impossible to step into the same river twice.