Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Blue (Hot Cup, 2014) ***
Mostly Other People Do the Killing is a group that has created an identity on creative parody, musical juxtaposition and incredible technical facility. Their albums have been given pretty rave reviews here … just going back a few years we covered the live Coimbra Concert, their take on smooth-jazz take with Slippery Rock, and the exploration of early jazz on Red Hot. Each time they quote, mash-up and generally celebrate jazz through deconstruction and proficiency. But with Blue, an uncanny remake of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, they seem to have reached the end of one possible path: an album that is one gargantuan quote. Or as the press materials indicate, the recording "draws attention to the aspects of music that are the hardest to talk about: timbre, time-feel, articulation”.
How do I feel about this album? I can honestly say that I don’t know. Blue seems like something that was an incredibly meaningful labor of love for the musicians. They have expressed a great deal of reverence for the album and the musicians who created it, however, how necessary it is as a recording will remain to be seen.
I haven’t really spoken about the music, which may actually prove to be my point in the end. The group, Peter Evans (trumpet), Jon Irabagon (alto sax), Ron Stabinsky (piano), Moppa Elliott (bass), Kevin Shea (drummer) are all top notch, versatile and creative musicians. The music needs no introduction here (if it does … hi reader, meet Kind of Blue), it's wonderful and timeless, and features solos that are worthy of being transcribed, studied, and played. But as a recording, my feelings are in line with what Greg Applegate wrote about the album on his blog “If you buy this one, it should not be because it is something new. It is most emphatically something NOT NEW.” Also, read the write up in The Atlantic as well, it gives some great context to the album. They say, "the joke is that no one has ever tried to recreate a record quite like this, but for the last six decades, musicians have performing music that sounds a lot like Kind of Blue and the other milestone records of its era."
In summary, I am going with my labor of love theory. It’s not an album that is pushing boundaries, but it is a piece made for discussion and for raising some fine existential questions about what is jazz and where does it go from here.
Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Blue (Hot Cup, 2014) **
Let's cut to the chase: Mostly Other People Do the Killing's Blue is a note for note reiteration of Miles Davis' landmark jazz album, Kind of Blue. The bands members: Peter Evans (trumpet), Jon Irabagon (alto and tenor sax), Ron Stabinsky (piano), Moppa Elliott (bass), and Kevin Shea (drums) have subsumed their own identities to recreate, in as exacting a manner as possible, the Miles Davis group that created the original album. The question one might ask is -- why? What is the point, especially if it isn't a reinterpretation, when one can just buy the original? Anticipating this, the response can be found in the liner notes, which is an essay written by Jorge Luis Borges on Pierre Menard, an early 20th century writer who spent a good portion of his life recreating chapters of Cervantes' novel, Don Quixote.
Quoting from the essay: “Thinking, meditating, imagining,” he also wrote me, “are not anomalous acts—they are the normal respiration of the intelligence. To glorify the occasional exercise of that function, to treasure beyond price ancient and foreign thoughts, to recall with incredulous awe what some doctor universalis thought, is to confess our own languor, or our own barbarie. Every man should be capable of all ideas, and I believe that in the future he shall be.”
The act of recreating the process that led to the making of the novel through the technique of deliberate anachronism and fallacious attribution. Menard wanted to re experience the novel by channeling Cervantes through himself to create chapters of the book. Are we to infer from this that MOPDTK, by channelling Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb, they have created Kind of Blue? There is little need to describe the playing on the album, there are no deviations, no signature MOPDTK traits that appear. It is as if one is listening to Kind of Blue. But this is not to say that Evans is as good as Miles, or Irabagon Coltrane. They aren't. I don't think that is the point. There are differences in the subtleties of the playing; the life experiences are too different. It is a testament to their skills as musicians that they do evoke the mood and the feel of the album. This exercise is similar to Gus Van Sant's frame by frame recreation of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho." But, as a listener and a potential buyer of this album, is it worth it? My rating gives you my answer.