With the recent release of Blue, a note-for-note copy of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue done by the group Mostly Other People Do The Killing, there seems to be a broad consensus among musicians and critics alike that the boundaries of what is jazz and what isn’t have all but disappeared. More recently artists in the mainstream have hopped on the post-modern conceptual bandwagon, with Diana Krall releasing an album where she doesn’t sing the music of Stockhausen.
In the liner notes, Krall explains why she decided to undertake this particular endeavor: “It’s unbelievable that in the year 127 P.D. [Post Duchamp – Ed.] nobody had taken on this burden, which I feel is an obligation we owe to the advancement of jazz music, and art as a whole. When Miles Davis talked about “playing what’s not there”, it was just a matter of time before someone had to take that to its logical extreme. It is important that we question our Platonic a priori conception of what jazz is, and if that question itself is still valid in today’s society. Personally I believe that jazz as a style and a tradition is dead, but it’s alive and well as an ontological question.”
The album opens with the absence of a lengthy and clever vocalese, written in the vein of Jon Hendricks on “Left-Eyebrow Dance”, one of Stockhausen’s most haunting melodies. Originally written for flutes, basset horns, percussion, and synthesizer, she gives a daring a capella rendition of the piece. Halfway the album a slight lull occurs with her version of “we bore us with pain into this life”, one of Stockhausen’s more cheesy works, which Krall unfortunately doesn’t manage to turn around for the better. The grand finale lives up to its name however, with Krall actually chartering four helicopters to stay on the ground for “Helicopter String Quartet”, at what I can only guess must have been a great financial expense. All in all, this album can truly be called a milestone in jazz, on par with Giant Steps, Bitches Brew, and more recently Blue, and shows great promise for the future of this conceptual artist’s career.