Approaching the Jazz Past: MOPDTK’s Blue and Jason Moran’s “In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, 1959”

Tracy McMullen


This article analyzes two approaches to the jazz past undertaken recently under the aegis of “jazz reenactment”: Mostly Other People Do the Killing’s 2014 release of Blue (a note-for-note re-performance of the Miles Davis Sextet’s 1959 album, Kind of Blue) and Jason Moran’s multi-media re-visiting of Thelonious Monk’s 1959 Town Hall Concert, “In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, 1959.” I contend that rather than an ironic critique of the canonization of jazz, Blue is a direct product of the same tradition of understanding the past that informs such canonization. This tradition is based in an epistemology that privileges objectivity, logic, boundaries, and an obsession with naming while suspecting the subjective and what cannot be named.  Jason Moran’s “In My Mind,” however, offers a different understanding of the past, one rooted in ambiguity and connection rather than delineation and separation. I argue that this latter understanding offers a necessary critique of conceptions of the past and of self and other found in the dominant Western worldview.

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