I keep seeing stuff about Mostly Other People Do the Killing’s Kind of Blue and I keep thinking Australian Pink Floyd, who’ve made their own killing playing Dark Side of the Moon note for note for people who really ought to know better. Maybe this is the same thing. They’re much better musicians the Australian Pink Floyd (saxophonist Jon Irabagon is an especially fine player), and their Kind of Blue is more Kind of Blue than the Australian Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is Dark Side of the Moon, but we’re talking textures here. Both have all the notes right. And that’s what people are looking for, the notes. And that could be a lot of people. They really could make a killing at this. Mostly White People Miles Davis playing Kind of Blue, just like the album. At the Wiltern before you know it.
I wrote something a few years ago after the hologram Tupac Shakur played Coachella. The kids went nuts. Tupac is in the house! Tupac lives! they tweeted. It was like he never died several said. One tweeter mentioned Tupac had died before she was even born but now she’s seen him and could die happy. I blinked at that one a few times. Digital reality twisting temporal reality into Escher. I coolly predicted within a couple years Jimi Hendrix would play Coachella, and John Lennon, and James Brown. John Coltrane would be at the Playboy Jazz Festival, and Miles Davis. Well, maybe they’re still working on those. But in the meantime you can have note for note perfection like Dark Side of the Moon and Kind of Blue. And if it’s not the real Pink Floyd down there or Miles Davis with his back to you, you can close your eyes and pretend. It may not be the real thing, but maybe nobody can tell what is real or unreal anymore. Not the Beatles, Beatlemania used to say, but an incredible simulation. It wasn’t, though. Not even close. It’s ridiculous trying to reenact a live performance, right down to the snappy patter. But when you do a recording session–that’s a different story. Of course, not even Miles ever played the Kind of Blue album note for note. Miles was a jazz musician. You can’t play jazz note for note. It’s not jazz if you do. And that’s definition…if there’s jazz there’s improvisation. Even tightly arranged big bands let their stars loose in every tune. Maybe for a stretch, maybe just a quick flurry. But those bits were improvised, mad jazz soloing, the kids went nuts, and it was jazz. If you copy the improvised passages on Kind of Blue with flawless perfection, you are not improvising. It’s not jazz.
But maybe that’s not the point. The point is to sound like the album. I met a jazz fan once who collected jazz records but never went to see jazz in person, not even by the original players. I asked why not. He said what’s the point? It doesn’t sound like the record. I didn’t know how to respond and said nothing. He and I were on different jazz planets. Mine loose and wild and improvised, his tight and tidy and the exact same every time. But I suspect that there are far more jazz lovers nowadays who feel the same as that guy than don’t. A large untapped market. Personally I couldn’t stand to see a performance that sounded just like the record. I’d wonder why I bothered and hope something would go wrong, just to mess things up. Sometimes the best things come out of things falling apart. But things falling apart scares most people.
So Mostly Other People Do the Killing’s Kind of Blue could be a big thing. They probably see it as a one time project, just to see if they could do it. Then back to the real jazz. But there has to be promoters out there just dying to have a go at this. There’s so much potential. A good marketing campaign and some slick promotion and they could be doing their note for note Kind of Blue for halls full of mostly white people all across the country. The jazz musician in them might say no, but the mortgage will say yes. And it’s not like they have to dress up in costumes, Milesmania this is not. All they have to do is play the music, note for note, every night of the tour. The fans will love it.
And you’ll be seeing more like it, I think. Trane and Monk are goldmines for this. A note for note A Love Supreme could make millions. It wouldn’t sell many records–people will buy the original–but it could pack concert halls. After all, when jazz decided to be America’s Classical Music it set itself up for this. Jazz is a living music, improvisational, ever changing. But most classical music today is symphonies performing famous works for people who don’t want to hear them sound all that different from what they’re used to. You don’t fill the Hollywood Bowl doing daring and crazy things to Beethoven. You fill the Bowl sounding like people think Beethoven is supposed to sound. There is always variation, of course, but not enough to bother most people, or even that they would notice. And when Kind of Blue becomes classical music, that’s what people will expect. Indeed, what they are expecting now. A live Kind of Blue just like the record. That improv thing just goes so far before people get annoyed. I don’t like jazz, a lot of people would say, just the albums. Give them a band that can sound exactly like their copy of Kind of Blue and they’ll be happy.