Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Blue

I haven’t had the time or the energy to closely follow the debate about MOPDK’s Kind of Blue recreation that’s been raging online. Bassist Damon Smith’s Facebook post favoriting Jimmy Cobb over Kevin Shea has so far generated over 1,200 comments, and over at Organissimo, a post about Blue has resulted in almost 4,700 views. I can’t recall such heated debate about a jazz-related topic since the days of Wynton’s ascendency as the de facto spokesperson for “jazz” in the eyes of the unwashed.

When I heard about the project, I thought it was probably one of the following:
  1. An idiosyncratic but loving tribute to an iconic jazz album that everyone hears at some point in their lives, even if they’re not a jazz fan
  2. A commentary on the state of jazz, particularly mainstream jazz, where recreations of bop and Blue Note happen with regularity
  3. A clever piece of self-promotion, guaranteed to get a response. As they say, “Any publicity is good publicity.”
  4. All of the above
Whatever the band’s original intent, they have certainly succeeded at #3. I frankly don’t care how well the band “succeeded” at the project; by definition it will be different, no matter how hard they tried to ape the original. In a weird way, I admire their resolve, because it’s one thing to say, “Hey, let’s practice and record as close a copy of Kind of Blue as we can” and another to actually go do it.

One unexpected side effect of listing to MOPDK’s version is it made me want to go back and listen to the original, something I hadn’t done in years. I bookmarked certain passages in my brain, interested in how Miles and his band had played them. So if nothing else, perhaps MOPDK has done us a service, by causing us to focus again on the genius of that group in that time, and making us realize that, as in all things, time marches on and so must the music some of us still like to call Jazz.


  1. I think I'm in agreement with you, Craig. At first I took "Blue" to be a prank, but it took me only a few seconds of thinking to realize, "if this is a prank, they put in enough effort to make it actually admirable..."

    Somewhere out there (too lazy to locate at the moment) is a good interview with Moppa explaining some of the thought process. And it's got a great quote where he notes that people will be playing "Blue" side-by-side with "Kind of Blue" to dissect the playing -- and maybe they'll wonder why they don't *always* listen to music that way, he says.

    I've asked myself that about music, under normal circumstances, many a time. I haven't listened to "Blue" all the way through yet, but I'm sure my time will come. Whether I'll get something out of the exercise, I don't yet know.

  2. Yes, I imagine it took a lot of practice and effort to get the final product out there. It's interesting that you haven't listened to Blue the entire way through; I haven't either, but partly that's because Kind of Blue is not my favorite Miles album by a long shot.

  3. Unless I misunderstand you when you write "It's interesting that you haven't listened to Blue the entire way through; I haven't either" I find it strange that you can post a review and only mention in the comments that you haven't listened to the album reviewed all the way through.
    This surely makes it a review of just those parts you have heard? Is it only this review on this blog that is a partial review?

  4. I thought by the structure and content of this article that it was clear I was providing a commentary on the Blue controversy, not one of my usual reviews. If that wasn't clear, please accept my apology.

    Any review I do will always list artist/title/label/personnel at the top. I listen to any record for which I'm doing a review several times before writing about it.

    Thanks for asking and giving me a chance to clarify, and thanks for viewing my blog.