Re-enacting Historic Jazz Performances
Abstract and Keywords
This article examines contemporary jazz reenactment in the context of the rise of live musical reenactments since the 1990s. The growth of tribute bands in popular music fulfills a long-standing cultural appetite for music that “repeats with a signal difference” through ironic tributes, but the growing prevalence of “clone” bands that depict the past with “painstaking precision” also reveals a yearning for repetition without a difference. Jazz, perhaps the musical archetype of repeating with a signal difference, has been increasingly repeated without a difference in this era. In order to understand this phenomenon and its ramifications, this article argues for the necessity to clearly recognize the different traditions of repetition that have accompanied jazz since its inception: a liberal humanist European tradition that supports our modern-day museum culture of “naming and taming” and an African American tradition that has not sought to locate objects and authors so precisely.
This article examines three recent jazz events within the context of live re-enactment as a contemporary performance practice: Wynton Marsalis’s tribute to Louis Armstrong’s famous Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings; Zenph Sound Innovations’ “re-performances” of Art Tatum and George Gershwin; and Jason Moran’s “In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, 1959.” It argues that in order to understand these events and their ramifications, we need to recognize two different epistemologies that generate different conceptions of the past, self, and other within jazz as performance (there are more, but I only discuss two here).1 I define these epistemologies as the liberal humanist tradition (LHT) and the African American tradition. Differentiating these two traditions is a heuristic device. I am not saying we can locate fixed boundaries between them; nonetheless, there is a difference that needs to be taken into account. Becoming clear about these influences prevents the lumping together of various approaches to repetition into one category under the rubric of the “postmodern.” Such clarity also offers a lens through which to understand Jason Moran’s counter to the drive toward strict re-enactment in jazz performance with his “In My Mind.”
It was especially in the 1990s that live re-enactment began to overtake much popular music performance. Tribute and clone bands replaced the popular cover bands of the 1970s, with reference to particular performances. The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies attracted a new generation of jitterbuggers and lindy hoppers to clubs in North America. Performance artists also began to stage strict re-enactments of popular music at this time.2 Today tribute and clone bands continue to perform a substantial percentage of concerts at clubs that were once solely devoted to original bands.3
While much American popular music has been and still is characterized by repetition with a signal difference4 (due primarily to its African American heritage), the popularity of strict re-enactments has been a significant move toward uncanny repetition without a difference. Unlike ironic tributes, painstakingly precise re-enactments—what Rebecca Schneider (2011) calls “radically rigorous” performances—I argue are devoted to a type of strict authenticity defined by accurate capture and the glorification of the uncanny. I call this “haunthenticity”: authenticity understood as the fetishistic capture of such minute and “accurate” details of the past that the performance creates a haunting, uncanny effect.5 Conductor Maurice Peress’s rigorous re-enactment of Paul Whiteman’s 1924 “An Experiment in Modern Music” for the event’s sixtieth anniversary offers an example. Peress marketed his re-enactment not in regard to the music being performed, but through highlighting the uncanny and haunting quality of the event: “Same Day, Same Hour, Same Block.”6
While jazz has always been a combination of African American and European American traditions, it was born from African American understandings of form and repetition that differed markedly from an LHT that privileged the individual and private property. The LHT demands a clear object (the work) and a locatable author. As an American art form, jazz could not escape this ideology; nonetheless, its emphasis on improvisation, musical reuse, and repetition with a signal difference has at least attenuated the assumption of the fixed art object and the single producer characteristic of the LHT of art and “art music.”7 From its earliest years, jazz privileged African American musical practices. The LHT was also present, however, when jazz was presented in more prestigious venues (such as Paul Whiteman’s 1924 performance at Aeolian Hall or W. C. Handy’s at Carnegie Hall in 1928).8 That is, even as early as 1924, jazz was presented in a re-enactive or demonstrative form, tracing through its history in a musical show-and-tell that arrayed various styles into objects. This article examines these different approaches to musical repetition and performance in jazz. I therefore begin with a discussion of musical repetition in the context of the two traditions introduced before investigating three examples of the jazz past recently brought “back to life” through various tactics of haunthenticity. I conclude with essential issues and questions pertaining to the practice of jazz re-enactment and suggest directions for future investigation.
Music, Repetition, and Form
Scholars have pinpointed the late twentieth century as the beginning of a type of postmodern “re-culture.”9 Within this context, the rise of various types of self-conscious “reuse” in popular music—for example, tribute and clone bands, karaoke, sampling, and remix—has most often been understood within a rubric of “postmodernity” (Reynolds 2011; Plasketes 2010).10 What is less often recognized, however, is that not all musical repetition stems from the same tradition, nor does it have the same aims. Different traditions of repetition stem from different conceptions of musical form, which at root come from different conceptions of self and other (or subject and object). Although all of these various techniques involve the reuse of previous material, their actual motivations and products are quite different. It is therefore a mistake to lump together sampling and clone bands as equivalent examples of “postmodern repetition.”11 It is paramount to recognize the different epistemologies that support different traditions of repetition that now manifest in jazz. Indeed, the LH and African American traditions of repetition have distinctly different aims, philosophies, and ramifications.
The dominant cultural ideology in the United States is the LHT, which in the late twentieth century crashed upon the shoals known as “postmodernity.”12 While the definition of postmodernity is complex and multifaceted, it is generally characterized by the crisis of representation, the compression of time and space, the dissolution of the liberal humanist individual, and the rise of “memory culture” (Huyssen 2003; Sturken 2007; and Boym 2001). While all of these are interrelated and important to my thesis, it is memory culture that most pertains to the topic of jazz re-enactment.
Contemporary memory culture is the manifestation of a centuries-old LH conception of the past as a separate, discrete object. The mid-eighteenth century brought the advent of urban memorials and museums, sites where the past could be preserved, stored, contemplated, and remembered. Beginning in the nineteenth century, monuments were restored to their “original image” with materials characteristic of the time when they were built, rather than by using materials appropriate for the time of repair.13 This sense of the discreteness of the past and the desire to “preserve it” represented a shift from understanding the past as a more integrated part of the present to something separate that would be lost if it were not saved in its original state. It represents the rise of what Huyssen has called “museum culture.”14 This view of the past is born from an epistemological tradition that increasingly conditioned knowing on the separation of a knower and the known. That is, in order to know, there must be a subject knowing an object. Without this separation, the knowledge is considered “subjective,” and as such, suspect.
This is a rather unique epistemological view compared to traditions that did not develop a museum culture or feel that they were losing the past. West African drummer Ibrahim Abdulai’s response to a question about the origins of the Dagomba drumming/dance beat known as Takai illustrates a different view of knowing the past and musical form. Because I refer to it throughout this article, I quote the discussion at length. In response to ethnomusicologist John Miller Chernoff’s (1979) question about the origination of a particular beat pattern, Abdulai said:
Abdulai was at pains to describe a form that was always new, but not different; always changing, but not really changing. The difficulty in trying to describe what may have seemed self-evident to Abdulai was the ethnomusicologist’s tradition of understanding phenomena in terms of origin and ownership. There is no inventor or owner of a beat. It cannot be traced back to a certain source, because one could always go back to something that influenced that particular incarnation of the beat. And while Abdulai may jokingly lament the change from his good beat to the new “spoiled” beat, there is no danger of the beat ever being lost. There is nothing separate to lose. The origin (or “introduction” as Abdulai puts it) happens with every beat, and therefore the beat does not recede out of our grasp. Such a relationship to form does not create an object that can then be lost. The past is in the present—the origin is always now. There is no object to slip further and further away from the subject.
You want to know who introduced the beating, and I can tell you that no one introduced Takai. Any time you hear a dondon beater beating, and someone is dancing, then you must know that the dondon beater introduced the playing. He is the one who introduced the beating of the drum … .
So as the Takai dancers who are dancing now are becoming old, they will train another set after them, and another set…. No one knows the original beat of Takai, and by that time the beat we take as Takai will die. It may be a new one altogether. By that time, I and the others will not be there. And those people who will be there at that time, they will think that they are dancing the real thing because they will not know the original beat as before. Before me Alhaji was leading the Takai group…. But Alhaji has not given it over to me. At present if we are drumming and he comes there, he says that we have changed the beat so much that we have spoiled it. And whatever happens, in the future it will also change. Even in our time it is not the original beat. That is what will keep on happening.
So how do you feel about the fact that they will be changing the Takai beat?
To me, I feel it is better. The change is better because I have come to the stage that I feel that what we are drumming is good. If an old man says that at the time they were drumming, the beat was good, I don’t know what the beat was at that time, so I feel that what we are doing at present is good. And in the future they will feel that what they are doing is better than what we have been doing now. That is what will keep on happening.
And what will you tell them?
I won’t tell them anything because by that time I will not be there.
But if you are there, what will you say?
I’ll tell them that they are spoiling it. (64–65)15
It is illuminating to consider how the LHT would understand this scenario. Within this view, because the beat would be construed as different from the earlier beat, there would now be two different beats. The different beat (despite the fact that it carries the past within it) separates from the old beat. As such, the old beat is now lost. This precipitates the need to locate, delineate, and preserve the original beat by capturing it exactly in its pastness (similar to using the original materials to patch up the building). With each change, a new beat is created and an old beat is lost. Each old beat must then be preserved. More and more preservation is required in the hopes of losing less and less. It is the sad irony that in preserving, the LHT distances, separates, and alienates the past from the present, thus creating more and more “loss.”
I am not making a through-line from African practice to African American practice, but I do want to suggest that the LHT’s propensity to separate subject and object is the anomalous view from a world cultural standpoint (although, of course, it is the dominating view). To the extent that African slaves and then African Americans maintained a physical separation from the dominant LH-influenced culture, they were able to maintain ontologies and epistemologies that differed from the LH worldview. For example, African American music began with a similar lack of concern with ownership seen in the West African example. Songs were not private property connected to an author, but a communal phenomenon.16 Of course, by the time of the advent of jazz in the twentieth century, the idea of the individual composer was already accepted by many African American musicians. Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, and W. C. Handy all published their music. W. C. Handy staged a Carnegie Hall concert in 1928 that attempted to name the history of jazz in answer to the naming of jazz undertaken by Paul Whiteman with his 1924 “Experiment in Modern Music.” This demonstrates the mix of traditions that has always made up jazz, or perhaps more accurately, the pressure the LHT has exerted on an African American form. But the predominant relationship to songs in the budding jazz tradition, especially since Louis Armstrong, was one of reworking. Songs were not to be located and reperformed exactly as the composer had intended, but rather to be interpreted by the artists arranging and performing them. There was no belief that the song would be lost if it were not reperformed exactly as originally intended.
Henry Louis Gates and scholars who have applied his theories to music have elucidated this different tradition of repetition found in African American practice.17 These scholars have demonstrated how the African American literary and musical practice of Signifyin(g) (Gates 2014 ), or repeating with a signal difference, has characterized African American artistic production for centuries, including more recently, jazz, hip hop, sampling, and remix in music. In this tradition there is no original form that is used as a permanent template. The preoccupation is not with retrieving or preserving an origin, but with responding according to current circumstances within an acknowledged context. As such, some scholars have argued that the African American tradition was postmodern before there was a postmodern.18 This is true if we understand postmodernity as the (late to the game) recognition of intersubjectivity and the interconnectedness of phenomena. However, it is not true in terms of the different practices of memory and reuse that are described as “postmodern,” which have more to do with nostalgia and museum culture than with the long African American tradition of repeating with a signal difference.
What we now describe as “jazz” is a music that grew out of an improvisatory and interpretive approach to ragtime and vaudeville songs. It is important to recognize that jazz was simultaneously performed in a museal and demonstrative fashion from its very early years. In 1924 European American Paul Whiteman sought to define jazz for the public by staging his “Experiment in Modern Music.” The evening purported to trace the history of jazz from its “primitive” beginnings to its culmination in George Gershwin’s jazz and classical music fusion premiere, Rhapsody in Blue. The concert proffered an edifying tour through the development of music, much as one would learn the “evolution of man” through pictorial charts in grade school at the time.19 The African American composer, cornetist, and bandleader W. C. Handy answered Whiteman’s performance with a concert of his own in 1928 at Carnegie Hall. Tracing through the “evolution in Negro music” from “The Birth of Jazz” to a “Jazz Finale,” Handy embraced jazz edification in order to name the story himself.20 But the 1970s and 1980s brought a new level of jazz institutionalization with the burgeoning of jazz repertory companies, record reissues, university jazz programs, and governmental recognition.21 “Jazz” became “America’s classical music.”22 As such, preservation became paramount, including solidification of the canon around great masters and masterworks.23 Maurice Peress staged the first live re-enactment of a complete jazz concert in 1984—significantly, Paul Whiteman’s Aeolian Hall concert, on its sixtieth anniversary. And by the late 1980s one of the preeminent “young lions” (musicians championed as the torch bearers of “classic jazz”), trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, began the process that eventually led to the founding of Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) in New York City in 1991, now the leading site of jazz’s institutionalization.
Wynton Marsalis’s Embrace of the LHT and Its Ramifications
A discussion of historical jazz re-enactment has to examine the performance of jazz at JALC, an institution which has been criticized by jazz scholars and critics as so focused on jazz’s past as to be a burden to its future.24 For many, JALC managing and artistic director Wynton Marsalis places too strong an emphasis on “demonstration jazz”25—the obedient illumination of various past styles. The resident JALC orchestra is known for its “stylistic authenticity” and is dedicated to performing works from the Basie, Ellington, Webb, and Goodman songbooks in the “original” style.26 In the tradition of LH canonization, Marsalis places Duke Ellington at the top of the jazz pantheon as a composer and Louis Armstrong as the music’s ur-soloist.27 It is these “great men” and the styles associated with them (“New Orleans jazz” and “swing”) that Marsalis himself most often re-enacts.
One particular Marsalis re-enactment illustrates how repeating without a difference can function in jazz. In 2006 Marsalis performed a tribute to Louis Armstrong’s famous Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings. Recorded by Okey Records in Chicago between November 1925 and July 1928, the Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings were made by Armstrong and a variety of other instrumentalists, with the most consistent group being Johnny Dodds (cl), Kid Ory (tb), Johnny St. Cyr (banjo), and Lil Hardin (pno). Over their three-night run, Marsalis led an eight-man ensemble based on the original instrumentation (including clarinet, banjo, and tuba) and drew from eighteen songs from the various recordings to perform each night.28 Marsalis stressed the importance of these recordings to jazz, describing them as “the foundation of the organization of jazz improvisation, even as we know it today” (qtd. in Schaefer 2006). In the dominant narrative of jazz history, Armstrong’s groundbreaking improvised solos render these recordings important: this is the formative moment when individual improvisation becomes a hallmark of jazz.
As in many reviews of Marsalis’s tribute approach, this performance was described by critics as stylistically accurate, but lacking in spontaneity. Jazztimes reviewer Chris Kelsey lamented the trumpeter’s strict adherence to the past:
Kelsey here criticizes Marsalis for approaching jazz as an artifact that must be preserved, rather than a process that encourages engagement, exploration, risk-taking, and openness to inspiration. Put in the terms of the Takai discussion above, Marsalis treats these recordings as the “old beat” that must not be lost. Rather than understanding jazz today as built upon and still connected to these earlier recordings and their innovations, Marsalis feels that this old beat will be lost if it is not brought back in its “original” form.
The music worked as an homage or a revival. On a deeper level, however, it lacked. The ground covered was too familiar, the treatment clichéd and overly reverential. The wild and wooly spirit of discovery that speaks to us from the original Hot Five recordings was nowhere to be found. Therein resides the central point: That very air of adventure, that ineffable spark of inspiration provides the essence of what makes the best jazz great. It’s what separates the original Hot Fives from a skillfully executed, well-meaning tribute. I wish Marsalis had made that point. Unfortunately, I’m not sure he understands it himself.29
I want to highlight some of the characteristics of this LH-informed approach to the past. This approach takes the past as authority, performing the music in its “original intent”—the old beat—rather than recognizing the “old beat” in the “new beat” and taking today’s parameters as the authority. It is not primarily concerned with how the music or performance would best work now in relation to present-day circumstances—for example, accounting for room size or popular taste regarding tempo or rhythm. This is similar to discussions in a famous Duke Ellington tribute orchestra over whether to perform tempi as heard on the record or as remembered by players in the current band who had actually performed with Ellington. Choosing a tempo that might align with current trends is not considered.30 The truth is in the past, not the present. Further, Marsalis’s approach to jazz performance emphasizes control. He stresses the ability to perform these past styles “correctly” as the hallmark of an authentic jazz player. This mastery involves painstaking, complex work. Only some people can do it. In presenting jazz in this way, jazz is understood as a series of historic events, not as an approach or method. In this case, the recordings are the historic event and are therefore re-enacted like a famous battle. These re-enactments are often described as uncanny in their perfection.31 With all of this, Marsalis “fixes” history in two senses of the term: he makes it permanent and he “corrects it” through the implicit aspects of his performance, as I will show. Finally, there is the privileging of the “liveness” of the event—the audience will be there with the past.32 It is not mediated through a recording. All of these traits are aspects of an approach to the past that I call Replay (McMullen 2008, forthcoming) and theorize further below.
Marsalis fixes history along the lines of the accepted master narrative of jazz by finding an origin in Armstrong’s improvisation, thus serving to highlight the individual aspect of the music. In the program’s musician biographies, in addition to the eight performers on the bill, only Armstrong’s biography is given from the original Hot Five and Hot Seven, suggesting that he is the only artist who matters in this origin story.33 This particular story works well for the New Orleans–born and –bred, trumpet-playing Marsalis. As the playbill states, “Pops Armstrong always believed that New Orleans musicians had a special insight into the essence of jazz and nobody else could play it quite as well.” Focusing on the importance of these New Orleans roots, the playbill stresses Marsalis’s Crescent City heritage, making him ideally suited to be “the one to recreate the artistic achievement that Armstrong and these four musical pioneers [Dodds, Ory, St. Cyr, and Hardin] put on record in those historic sessions.” Marsalis promotes the Great Man tradition, with himself as the rightful heir to tradition as a musician/improviser (through Armstrong) and a composer (though Ellington).
While Marsalis helps to fix the idea of jazz as the art of great individuals, he also fixes by altering the original story to align with the gendered narrative of jazz that he promotes.34 That is, despite the fact that this group of “musical pioneers” who helped to lay down the foundation of jazz contained a woman, there was no woman on stage with Marsalis. Like the vast majority of Marsalis’s bands, the ensemble was all male. Thus, while Marsalis is routinely criticized for being “too exact,” such exactitude does not extend to representing the contributions of women to early jazz via a female performer. Lil Hardin Armstrong was the pianist in the Hot Five and the composer and arranger for many of their songs. Indeed, of the eighteen songs chosen for reperformance, three were composed or co-composed by Hardin. The only composer with more credits was Armstrong, with five written or cowritten. And of the total of fifty-four songs recorded by all Hot Five and Hot Seven ensembles, more than 25% are credited to Hardin.35
Marsalis, then, “repairs” the image of the foundation of jazz from one that includes a woman’s significant contribution to one that is solely the work of men. And if we look at the review of that performance by Nate Chinen in the New York Times, we can see how the ritual re-enactment of jazz is taken as the “real” story, despite written contradiction of that narrative. As Chinen comments on how Marsalis “channels” the “Granddaddy of ‘Skid Dat-de-Dat’” (2006), no mention is made in his review of Lil Hardin Armstrong, who is credited in the program as the composer of the song. Through the authority of the re-enactment, the men on stage, performing Armstrong’s ensemble so presumably exactly that they are criticized for it, produce the “truth” of jazz. This is the influence of performance and the command of Replay (re-enactments that purport to be exact representations of the past)—that JALC can print the truth of Hardin’s contribution, but the performance itself will give us the “real” message—that women are anomalous to jazz—a message Nate Chinen then reinforced in the New York Times: Grandmama supplanted by Granddaddy. Marsalis uses Replay to instantiate and perpetuate his vision and version of jazz history, fixing “errors” as he goes and fixing the history in his listeners’ eyes and minds.36
In re-enacting the origin story of jazz, Marsalis positions himself as the one who knows which details are important and which are not. Being authentic and true to the origin means stylistic accuracy and a band consisting of African American men. As with popular clone bands, the authenticity of re-enactments is about seeing, not hearing. Strict clone bands in popular music would not have a woman take the place of an original male member (even if she might sound just like him) or a black man replace a white man.37 Replay is about truth as (visual) presence: seeing is believing. The truth is here before us, unmediated. It is immediate, ostensibly more true than a mediated recording. It is this desire to bring the presence of the past back to us in an immediate fashion that inspires the work of my next example: Zenph Sound Innovations.
Zenph Sound Innovations’ “Re-performance”
It seems that jazz is particularly suited to haunt. From repertory bands in period clothing with period instruments, to Madonna’s “Express Yourself” video with its hologram of jazz greats performing on command, to contemporary concerts described as “re-vivifying” Fats Waller or “re-animating” Thelonious Monk, the jazz dead return to entertain us—not so much with their music, but with their live reoccurrence, the past now embodied and brought “back to life.”38 One could make a variety of guesses about why jazz is particularly prone to this treatment. The long history of white appropriation—the “love and theft” of black music (Lott 1993)—seems to especially dispose jazz to commodity fetish treatment, as does its rich capacity to signify an earlier era, the “jazz age.” Adding to its racial and temporal allure is its status as music itself. The concern with capturing and safeguarding musical sound has a long history, and the obsession with fidelity and preservation traces back to the first sound recordings. In fact, the quest for “perfect sound” continues today much as it did for Thomas Edison. As Greg Milner has noted, even with the latest high-fidelity stereo equipment, the goal is to “‘release every last nuance of recorded information without adding additional artifacts’—[describing] exactly what Edison wanted to do” (2009, 8). And indeed, I agree with Milner that for Edison (and those thereafter), “fidelity wasn’t the goal; permanence was” (34).39
Zenph Sound Innovations is the latest extension of this obsession with sound fidelity and permanence. The software company has trademarked a new wrinkle in the never-ending quest to capture sound perfectly: “re-performance,” the ability to apprehend every nuance of a pianist’s recorded performance in order to then reperform it live.40 After digitally analyzing finger and foot pressures on keys and pedals inferred from the recordings, Zenph feeds this information into specially equipped pianos. Audiences listen and watch as a piano’s keys and pedals go down following the precise movements of the absent pianist. The company has re-performed Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, George Gershwin, Glenn Gould, and Sergei Rachmaninoff and issued recordings of them on Sony Masterworks.41
A look at two Zenph projects, the recorded re-performance of Art Tatum’s Piano Starts Here and the 2012 live performance of “Gershwin at the Piano with the Dallas Wind Symphony” (another re-enactment of Paul Whiteman’s “Experiment in Modern Music”) exemplifies Replay at its extreme. Zenph’s second commercially recorded re-performance was of Art Tatum’s live 1949 concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and four studio-recorded songs from 1933, all initially issued as Piano Starts Here on Columbia in 1987.42 Zenph re-performed the entire album at the Shrine Auditorium in 2007 in front of a live audience, where “a Yamaha Disklavier Pro™ concert grand piano was placed on the same stage in the same spot where Tatum performed.” The CD’s liner notes ask us to “imagine sitting in the room and hearing Art Tatum play in person. That is the marvel experienced with the Zenph recording.” Until Zenph, “Tatum’s playing was locked in the rough monaural sound of its time.” According to the software company, it has set this sound free:
More than Marsalis, Zenph enacts the desires of Replay: perfect mimicry through intensive labor and technological wizardry; improving the “original,” with the only difference being a more accurate account of what Tatum “actually played” in the finest detail.
As with their acclaimed 2006 re-performance of Glenn Gould’s The Goldberg Variations, [Zenph Sound Innovations] used great software, great skill and keen musical sense to convert the original performance into a digital high-resolution MIDI document which perfectly mimics the mechanical details of the performance itself: tempo, attack, touch and so on. While they were at it, they retroactively repaired some tiny errors caused by tape transcription to vinyl – incorrect speed, missing segments and the like. Then they used that MIDI file to instruct a Yamaha Disklavier Pro concert grand piano, producing a re-performance that is different from the original vinyl release only in its superior sonic fidelity and dynamic range, and in its slightly more accurate account of what Tatum actually played that night of April 2, 1949.43
In 2012 Zenph presented “Gershwin at the Piano with the Dallas Wind Symphony.” This live concert was a re-performance of Gershwin “himself” playing the piano on Rhapsody in Blue at the historic Aeolian Hall jazz concert organized by Paul Whiteman. The Dallas Wind Symphony re-created the original concert program, song for song, while “Gershwin’s apparition was conjured by Zenph” from the lonely Yamaha piano.44 Zenph’s promotional materials again exhort potential listeners to “imagine sitting in the audience and hearing George Gershwin himself play his Rhapsody in Blue, with orchestra. His touch, his nuance, his pedaling, his sheer élan, just as he performed it in 1924.” As with Tatum’s four commercial recordings, Zenph began with Gershwin’s 78 rpm records and “discovered how [he] played every note and pedal.”45 Because Gershwin was only able to record a portion of Rhapsody in Blue on the 78 (cutting out the midsection), the refitted Yamaha only re-performed those nine minutes live. The rest was taken over by guest conductor and pianist Jeff Hellmer.
Zenph founder John Q. Walker describes re-performance as a way to contact the past without mediation. For those who “say this is like colorizing old photographs,” Walker says, “It’s not. This process is like being able to set up the entire scene of that photograph again and shoot it with a new camera from any angle, forever” (quoted in Rothstein 2007). Walker’s invention strives to bring us the immediate: the thing itself, brought back to life and available to us. Forever. Further, it is not just the “original” performance, it is the artist himself whom Walker wants to bring back. Walker tells a journalist, “The first question was, can we hear Glenn Gould play again?’ The next question: Cool, can we hear him play other stuff?” (Midgette 2005). As such, Zenph is working on technology to mimic the “give-and-take” of artists: to analyze their style so thoroughly that we can get them to reperform new material for us. Summing up his view of what he wants to capture, Walker states, “The fundamental root of the problem is that I don’t want to hear a recording. I want to hear the young Horowitz, Schnabel, Fats Waller, Thelonious Monk on an in-tune piano” (Midgette 2005). In the time-honored tradition of recording technology, Walker wants nothing less than to bring back the dead.46
As with Marsalis, however, implicit decisions are made about which details are the real details and which are glitches that need to be repaired. For Walker, a classical pianist himself, the real details are those of the musical “work.” In the tradition of werktreu lucidly outlined by Lydia Goehr (1992), Zenph offers the opportunity to hear the “real” work without recording hiss, an out-of-tune piano, or even, as in the case of Glenn Gould, the pianist’s extraneous humming (as caught on recordings for which the pianist’s body was present). Walker views all of these contingencies as separate from the work and therefore stains on its perfect transmission. Walker, however, also privileges the particular performers—clearly fetishizing them as much as the work (if not more so). Because he is so concerned with capturing these performances that have been deemed masterful, he dutifully captures each nuance, including mistakes.47 For Walker, then, details that are judged “signal” include the work and the general “skill” of the performer, including any mistakes in the original performance. Walker’s desire to have the artists produce new works is the desire to bring the person back to life—at least the talent, if not the humming. Details pronounced “noise” include recording hiss, out-of-tune pianos, and the extraneous corporeal noises of the performers.
Zenph demonstrates all of the characteristics of repetition without a difference that I call Replay—a practice within the LHT and a common form of entertainment in our postmodern world. To summarize, the practice of Replay fetishizes time, space, and material details. Re-enacting at the exact spot of the original performance on an anniversary is very common. “Authenticity” in Replay is defined in terms of acquiring the “real” material details like the original instruments or even (as is the case with more recent history) “original people” who have some embodied connection to the origin, either through having “been there” or by being related to the venerated artist. Replay attempts to “fix” history in both senses of the term: to make permanent and to improve or repair, usually through technological advancement. The practice genuflects to the past as authority. Re-enactors who aim for Replay are not primarily concerned with how the music or performance would best work now in relation to present-day circumstances—for example by accounting for room size, current weather temperature, or popular taste regarding tempo or rhythm—but rather attempt to re-enact the music along the lines of “original intent.” Replay presents the uncanny as a selling point. Performances are marketed as bringing the performance or person uncannily “back to life.” Replay assumes that we can and should have it all—that we should not lose or be parted from anything. The practice emphasizes control. Many re-enactments stress that through this work even the flow of time can be mastered. Replay situates music as a historic event that is then re-enacted, not as a continual process of unfolding, nor even any longer as a text to be interpreted. Like a battle or some other great ocurrence to be re-enacted, the original performance event is fetishized. In promoting the work, practitioners of Replay stress the complexity and difficulty of their task. They stress the months of “painstaking” study and research devoted to bringing a moment back with complete fidelity and the herculean efforts put into finding or refabricating original paraphernalia and ephemera. Finally, Replay conveys a desire to touch the real. It is a fantasy of connecting with that which has been lost (the past). It aspires to oneness (perfect identity) to remediate (or is it, immediate?) a world of separation, difference, mediation, and alienation. It is the quixotic attempt to repeat without a difference. In a world where we have access to the recordings, posters, old T-shirts, ticket stubs, photographs, and videos of bygone bands, the “real” past itself, the actual event, becomes the next object to somehow capture and possess. Replay maintains these characteristics across the genres of theater, pop “history” edutainment, performance art, and music. Not all of these characteristics are present in every strict re-enactment, but several, and very often most, of these qualities are. The most exemplary performances of Replay are found in strict tribute, or clone bands; however understanding the phenomenon sheds light on live re-enactments of jazz.
Jason Moran’s “In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, 1959”
While Wynton Marsalis is considered the paragon of “demonstration jazz” and Zenph could be identified as a merely technological phenomenon outside of the jazz performance tradition, aspects of Replay can be found even in the most creative contemporary jazz artists. Since the 1990s there has been an increasing push by arts funders to engage with the jazz past through re-enactment, and artists seeking financial support for their projects may find themselves compelled to contour concerts to these parameters.48 A case in point is pianist Jason Moran’s “reimagining” of Thelonious Monk’s famous 1959 Town Hall concert. While one critic described Moran’s engagement as a “lavishly inventive and musically satisfying take on a historic event in jazz,”49 jazz is nonetheless understood within the contours of Replay—as a “historic event” that will be re-enacted at the original site on a significant anniversary. Another reviewer described the performance as making Monk “live again,” with Moran uncannily traveling “back in time,” commemorating a “landmark concert” on its fiftieth anniversary at the original venue.50 I argue that Moran’s performance was, in fact, a brilliant critique of the infiltration of Replay into jazz practice. Nonetheless, he did need to negotiate the pressures to present jazz as Replay.
In 2008, Moran was contacted by the San Francisco Jazz Festival (SFJazz) and asked “to recreate the historic Thelonious Monk concert…. The idea was that I would play the piano part, and Thelonious’s son, T.S. Monk, would play drums. It was to be a grand affair in celebration of Monk’s 90th birthday year [in 2007].” 51 While Moran would not do an exact re-creation, he did perform with T. S. Monk for the SFJazz event commemorating Monk’s ninetieth birthday. The pianist subsequently developed the idea into a larger multimedia performance, securing funding from Duke University, The San Francisco Jazz Festival, Chicago Symphony Hall, and Washington Performance Arts Society to create a multimedia performance based on archival material of preparations for Monk’s original concert. With his ensemble, The Big Bandwagon, and in collaboration with visual artist Glenn Ligon and video artist David Dempewolf, Moran presented a multimedia re-creation that, in part, “[examined] the making of the Town Hall concert.”52 Entitled, “In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, 1959,” Moran premiered the program in 2007, took it on a sixteen-city international tour, and has performed it intermittently since then, including at a fiftieth anniversary celebration of the performance in 2009.
“In My Mind” incorporated a variety of audiovisual historical elements interwoven with Moran and the Big Bandwagon’s musical interpretation of Monk’s music. The performance included archival materials from Duke University’s Jazz Loft Project, an archive of the 40,000 photographs and 3,000 hours of audio collected by W. Eugene Smith from 1957 to 1965 in the popular jazz rehearsal space on Sixth Avenue in New York City (where Monk rehearsed for the Town Hall concert). The material was reworked by visual artist Glenn Ligon, who created a repeating “in my mind” backdrop, and video artist David Dempewolf, who combined shots of Ligon’s work with excerpts from the archived audiotapes and video taken by Moran of the North Carolina land where Monk grew up and where his great-grandparents were enslaved. Performing all of the original songs, but reworking the arrangements, Moran’s performance included “conversations” with Monk himself, in which the audience would hear Monk’s voice or his footsteps and the band would interact with this audio material. Moran wanted to give a more complete picture of Monk, to have the piece “go somewhere deeper than the music. I wanted it to reflect who Monk was as a man, as an American, and as a musician.”53
Moran would not perform an exact re-creation, remarking in an interview that “technical re-creations can be a recipe for disaster” via a quick allusion to Gus Van Sant’s shot-by-shot remake of Psycho.54 Nonetheless, several of the characteristics of Replay can be found in his performances. The SFJazz event included Monk’s son as a marker of haunthenticity and commemorated an important year (Monk’s ninetieth birthday). “In My Mind” was staged almost exactly on the fiftieth anniversary of the famous concert, on February 27, 2009, at the original venue, Town Hall in New York, as part of the Duke University Monk Festival (the original performance took place on February 28, 1959). The concert was replete with specific “material” from the past, in particular, sounds of the past: Monk’s voice and footsteps recorded during the 1959 rehearsals. There was emphasis on the uncanny. There is a haunting quality to Moran’s interaction with Monk, as the audience faintly hears Monk playing through Moran’s headphones and the present-day pianist duets with the ghostly man of the 1950s. In these characteristics one can see a desire to touch the dead—to bring Monk back in an immediate way, to feel that we have an unmediated experience of the man. By hearing his voice and his footsteps in the exact space where he performed the same concert fifty years before, we engage with jazz as a séance—looking and listening for something lost, which is to say, in our minds we have lost it. And as pointed out above, reviewers highlighted this aspect to potential audiences: Monk was “brought back to life,” and so forth.
But in general, Moran’s performance worked as a necessary antidote to the prevalence of Replay in jazz. In the performance I attended at the Kennedy Center in March 2015, Moran entered from stage right, took his place at the piano, and donned a pair of extra-large headphones.55 Soon the audience heard the original recording of Monk at Town Hall “leaking” the first track from Moran’s headphones: “Thelonious.” Moran dove into the piano, scrawling all over the partially audible to us, but perhaps very loud to him, “Thelonious.” The pianist did not treat the original reverently. He was not obsequiously copying the master’s licks, but getting funky, atonal, gospel-y. I read it as evoking Moran’s youth, his private practice at home, experimenting, pretending to be a grown-up “great artist,” being free, unrestrained: playing. Moran seemed to be saying: this is how jazz artists interact with the jazz past—they play with it. Playing with the past is how they learn jazz. I interpreted it as a critique of jazz re-enactment. It was a call to arms, a statement of what this “historical re-creation” would and would not be: Moran playing with the past. Playing. WITH. Monk.
After the Monk/Moran “duet,” the band entered, joining Moran for a full band version of “Thelonious.” Like many of the evening’s musical arrangements, at a certain point the song began to fragment into bits of melody turned riff that looped and were overlapped by different sections of the band. These loops continued to repeat beyond the point that seemed like “overdoing it.” The effect was a kind of implosion of the song, with different sections of the band obsessively repeating different riffs in kaleidophonic splendor. It seemed another comment on the issue of copying, tradition, influence, and repetition. You want tribute? You want the past? Here it is. Over and over and over and over and over and …. It was making copying so obsessive that something else came out the other side. Indeed, songs subjected to this approach disintegrated, sending constituent particles of the melody into the ether as atonal solos or group improvisation sidled in. It was not an exact technique that Monk employed, but redolent of a certain brilliant obsession found in Monk’s work, a starkness and complex simplicity. It had an adamantine quality that marks Monk’s idiosyncrasy.
In a similar fashion, Dempewolf manipulated and played with images. Photographs of the rehearsals for the Town Hall concert jumped around and changed with color filters or were partially obscured. They were “ruined” so as not to remain clear representations of a locatable past. The visual backdrop behind the performance of “Monk’s Mood” displayed photos with subtitles. From my seat the subtitles were partially obscured, but what I could read—“This is my room, my piano, I started piano lessons when …”—I initially took to be statements from Monk. The song is called “Monk’s Mood,” after all. But I started to think that these were statements from Moran and the photos probably of Moran’s childhood home. This was further supported when we heard a recording of what I took to be Moran describing listening to a Monk record with his family in his childhood living room. The TV set was on with the volume down, and his parents were discussing the recent tragic news of some friend or relative dying in an accident. While I do not clearly remember the details of the story, the effect remained with me. It was a story of Moran learning the importance of music—its power to help us survive in a world full of unknowns.56 This “arrangement” of “Monk’s Mood” was an example of how Moran blurred the “my” in his title: In My Mind. While beginning with Monk’s mood, we are led through a complex interaction that leaves everything unclear as to whose mood, whose mind, whose song. Who is Monk here, and who is Moran? Where, precisely, could we find that boundary?57
I requested one, but Moran did not have a recording of the entire performance to offer me. There are so many specifics of this performance that I don’t remember. But I find this apt. Things are lost. We don’t retain everything. But what is important to retain? For example, toward the end of the performance the musicians rose and left the stage while still playing. I was fascinated by this, but when trying to write about it later I couldn’t recall what song they had been playing. Was it still “Crepescule?” I don’t think so. Was it a reprise of “Little Rootie Tootie?” I also don’t think that. I recall being pleased that Moran did not reprise “Rootie Tootie,” which was so fetishistically performed by trumpeter Charles Tolliver and rewarded with critical praise in his strict re-enactment of the performance in 2009.58 But I wouldn’t stake my life on that memory. How I remember the music now (and I think, “incorrectly”) is as a kind of second line feel. Perhaps because they were marching, I am now remembering it as a New Orleans second line. Or perhaps it really was a second line feel. I like the truth of this imperfect recollection. I cannot fix the performance in my mind; it cannot be fixed (neither frozen, nor can my memory be “fixed” by listening to a recording). Moran’s re-enactment highlighted how the past cannot be “said” in the positivistic, pointing-to, obsessive way strict reenactments want to claim. It is an uncapturable influence, which is to say, it is there and not there. Of course the Town Hall concert is no longer what it was exactly. That time, that whatever it was (which could never be captured anyway, even then)—that is the “not there.” But it is there in the influence. It is there in how it is here now. Moran was connecting with the past. He was demonstrating how the past is a relationship we have.
This project began with SFJazz approaching Moran for a strict, fetishizing re-enactment. Moran acquired funding by pitching the performance along the lines of Replay. But Moran subverted the expectations and avoided the most nefarious qualities of Replay. There was no attempt at fixing, either in making permanent or somehow improving on Monk’s original performance. Moran created a situation of a conversation among himself, Monk, the other musicians, and the visual artists. It was a site of interaction that took not just music, but sounds from the original rehearsal, photos, and words to be improvised with or created for the performance (e.g., Ligon’s backdrops). The past was not taken as the ultimate authority; Moran did not strive to re-create how Monk played his compositions at the time, but made decisions about the music in terms of the present. Respect for Monk is manifested through the interpretation of his music, not by having to perform it exactly. There was no sense of control, of having to “perform things right” in order to demonstrate one’s mastery.
Essential Questions, Issues, and Directions for Future Investigation
The growing practice of re-enacting historic jazz performances raises many essential questions. How has the LHT as the basis of the museal approach to history and culture affected the understanding and presentation of jazz since the 1920s? How has it affected jazz performance in more recent decades? How is a postmodern desire for pastiche affecting jazz practice now? How is this postmodern approach to repetition overshadowing other ways to repeat? How is jazz institutionalization transforming an African American tradition of understanding the past, self, and other into an LHT? How does institutional funding affect jazz musicians’ engagement with the jazz past in their performances? Is Wynton Marsalis furthering/preserving an African American tradition or an LH one? What is important to preserve? What other epistemologies have also influenced jazz musicians’ understanding of the past, self, and other, such as those found in the spiritual traditions of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam?
The ways in which the LHT instantiates a sense of loss in its very fear of losing is a pertinent issue. In an epistemology that is wedded to a self/other split, separation and loss are inherent. Continual attempts to capture what we fear is lost only result in a continual recession of the object. This is to say that the issue is not repeating or copying. Repeating and copying are as old as culture itself. The issue is the different understandings of subject and object, self and other. To continue to believe that we will know through the separation of these two is to miss what may be most essential to preserve in jazz: a worldview that privileges connection (which is certainly not to say that all that is called jazz does this).
Areas for future investigation include research on the ways jazz and improvisation can and have acted as a counterpractice to the dominant LHT and how jazz performance itself can be conceived of as a way of passing on (that is, preserving) important knowledge. For example, more research is needed on musicians who have resisted tendencies inherent in the LHT, often through epistemologies supported by spiritual and/or African-derived traditions.59 Further work is needed on the clash of traditions in the history of jazz, including how African Americans have harnessed the LHT practice of naming and taming (W. C. Handy, Wynton Marsalis) to counter performed narratives by Paul Whiteman or other jazz narrators and the ramifications of these practices. It will be important to investigate the ways that jazz continues to interact with its institutionalization. A comparison of Wynton Marsalis as artistic director at JALC with Jason Moran as the new artistic director for jazz at Kennedy Center would prove fruitful.
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(2) The performance art duo Forsyth and Pollard began reenacting popular music, including The Smiths, David Bowie, and The Cramps, in 1996. They were part of a growing interesting in strict reenactment that overtook performance art around that time and continues today. For scholarship on reenactment in performance art and history, see Agnew (2004, 2007), Blackson (2007), Cook (2004), Kollectiv and Kollectiv (2007), Lutticken (2005a, 2005b), Magelssen (2004), and Schneider (2011).
(3) While many of these bands are ironic (and as such can be understood within the practice of “repeating with a signal difference”), others (often termed “clone bands”) re-enact their chosen bands with uncanny accuracy, paying attention to the most minute of details. For scholarship on tribute and clone bands, see Inglis (2006), Homan (2006), Jones (2001), Oakes (2005), Plasketes (2010), Porcaro (2008), Reynolds (2011), and Meyers (2015).
(4) “Repeating with a signal difference,” also described as “Signifyin(g),” is a theoretical term coined by literary theorist Henry Louis Gates ( 2014) to describe African American literary practice. Scholars Ingrid Monson (1996) and Robert Walser (1995) have applied the term to African American musical practice in jazz.
(5) Avery Gordon (2008 ) calls for a critical recognition of the ways in which we are haunted by the past. Gordon explores such haunting in response to her necessary acknowledgment that “life is complicated” (3). “Haunting” reenactments and haunthenticity, as used in this essay, are linked to a desire for hypervisibility and simplicity that elides the reality of complexity. For more on how Gordon’s work intersects with haunthenticity, see McMullen forthcoming.
(8) Other examples include Goodman’s 1938 concert, with its “Twenty Years of Jazz,” and John Hammond’s From Spirituals to Swing series at Carnegie Hall. See Tackley (2012, 174) for more on these concerts as presenting a “history of the music.” Scott Deveaux (1989) details the rise of the “jazz concert” between 1935 and 1945. Deveaux’s work clarifies that from early in jazz’s history, both the African American musical tradition that integrated music into the social fabric and the European tradition of music that (in some contexts) separated music onto a stage to be appreciated as an aesthetic object were present. Readers may also think of the “historically informed performance” (HIP) movement in early music. For scholarship on HIP see, Kivy (1995), Butt (2008), Sherman (1997), and Taruskin (1984). Furthermore, much has been written on the history of recording technology in terms of a desire to capture the past. See Chanan (1995), Eisenberg ( 2005), Kenney (1999) Milner (2009), Philip, Robert (2004), Rasula (1995), and Sterne (2003).
(11) See for example, the introduction and chapter 1 in Plasketes (2010). Some scholars have delineated different cultural approaches to repetition. In addition to Gates, Tricia Rose (1994) and James Snead (1981) have argued for and demonstrated how African American practices of repetition differ from “European culture” (see Rose (1994:67–71)). Marcus Boon has helpfully analyzed non-Western models of “copying” in Boon (2010).
(12) I say “crashed” because it is the particular theory of knowing in the LHT that leads it into the conundrum of “post.” The separations that sustained previous eras have proved erroneous and untenable; the system of thought has reached a dead end. For example, the liberal humanist individual created through the LHT is no longer sustainable as a believable paradigm in postmodernity.
(16) For example, see Robert Palmer’s description of early blues relying upon “countless floating verses that were the common property of all blues singers” (1981: 5). Folk music from around the world, including European folk music, has not privileged individual authorship. Therefore, may I underscore a point that I hope is obvious: the LHT is not tantamount to “all things European.” Europe is and has been home to contesting epistemologies, just like the United States and most other places in the modern world.
(17) Monson (1996) and Walser (1995). Further scholarship that outlines characteristics associated with African American musical practice includes Floyd (1991) and Wilson (1983). Lewis (2004) details different onto-epistemologies of musical practice found in the LHT and African American tradition through the use of his terms “Afrological” and “Eurological.”
(23) See Porter (2002) on Wynton Marsalis and Solis (2008) on understanding Thelonious Monk through a tribute approach. Tackley (2012) discusses jazz performances as historical displays in the 1920s and 1930s. Usner (2001–2002) examines the jazz swing revival. See also Stewart (2007) for a discussion of repertory bands in New York today (as well as other big bands). Copying the masters has always been the primary way to learn jazz. For an ethnographic account of jazz musicians’ practice, see Berliner (1994).
(24) JALC has been a central node around which questions of the “jazz tradition” and its continuance or preservation have turned. Wynton Marsalis, writer Stanley Crouch, and scholar Albert Murray were the firebrands behind the 1987 Lincoln Center committee that concluded jazz could and should be a permanent and significant member of the large arts institution. Marsalis came under the intensified scrutiny of jazz scholars after the release of Ken Burns’s nineteen-hour documentary Jazz in 2001. Marsalis was a clear ideological force behind the documentary, which has been criticized for its overbearing epic narrative, “great man” thesis, aesthetic conservatism, gender bias, and more. See Jacques, et al. (2001), Gabbard (2000), Macy (2001), Pond (2003), and Radano (2001). On Marsalis and JALC see also Porter (2002), Gray (2005), and McMullen (2008).
(27) Here is a typical quote: “The band created an uncanny reconstruction of a Duke Ellington small group with Ellington’s little-heard ‘Where’s the Music?’ Pianist Marcus Roberts emulated Ellington`s touch and timing perfectly and Todd Williams adeptly recalled the sweetly buttoned-down clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton. The band offered similar, if slightly less successful, here-is-history treatments of ‘And the Band Played On and On,’ a tribute to early New Orleans musicians written by Marsalis’ trombonist, Wycliffe Gordon, and Jelly Roll Morton’s ‘The Jungle Blues.’” http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1989-12-06/news/8903220581_1_wynton-marsalis-jungle-blues-duke-ellington.
(28) Marsalis on trumpet, Wycliffe Gordon on tuba and trombone; Vincent Gardner, trombone; Victor Goines, clarinet; Jonathan Batiste, piano; Carlos Henriquez, bass; Ali Jackson, drums; and “Papa” Don Vappie on banjo. Schaefer, (2006).
(30) Personal communication from Robert O’Meally.
(33) For a critique of this emphasis in jazz history on the individual soloist, see Monson (1996) and Taylor (2008). Jacqueline Warwick (2007) also addresses this tendency to focus on the individual artist over collaboration in popular music.
(35) Fourteen songs, 26%. Jeffrey Taylor (2008) revisits Lil Hardin Armstrong’s musicianship. Taylor asserts that rather than perpetuating the story that Armstrong was vastly subpar compared to Armstrong’s later pianist, Earl Hines, if we listen to her as a group member (rather than a soloist), we can hear that she provided the comping that best complemented Louis Armstrong’s playing. Hines was a fantastic improviser, but Taylor argues that his flights of fancy while comping may have contributed to his eventual dismissal from the band.
(38) Madonna’s 1989 video, “Express Yourself” (dir: Fincher), has three inanimate black male jazz musicians behind glass who are animated and made to perform when the white male factory owner touches a button. The promotional materials for a Fats Waller concert at JALC states that “a cast of musicians will re-animate the theatrical side of the Fats Waller Songbook in a retrospective of his all too short career.” See also Stanyek and Piekut (2010) on Natalie Cole’s “duet” with her dead father, Nat King Cole, in her 1991 performance of “Unforgettable.” Stanyek and Piekut focus on our intersubjective relationship with the dead and the dead’s agency via their theoretical term, “deadness.”
(39) Referring to Edison’s initial foray into sound recording, Greg Milner notes: “You only had a moment to capture the sound, but once you did you had it forever. We’ve been tweaking the process ever since” (2009, 23).
(41) Zenph hopes to extend its technology to other instruments in the future.
(42) The first was Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations.
(43) Piano Starts Here (Columbia, 1987), liner notes (emphasis in original).
(44) Foregoing, however, the final Pomp and Circumstance. The evening also included a reperformance of a bristling version of “I Got Rhythm” by Gershwin. While the video played, the piano/“Gershwin” reperformed the sound.
(45) http://www.zenph.com/gershwin. It’s interesting to note that Gershwin’s 1924 piano part in Rhapsody was largely improvised at Aeolian Hall. Whiteman had contacted Gershwin three weeks before the premiere, at which time the composer began putting together ideas. He did not have a piano part written by the time of the performance. It is likely the piano part on the recording was also largely improvised. What Gershwin performed on record became the “composition” as we know it today.
(47) One of Zenph’s earliest reperformances was of Alfred Cortot’s 1926 recording of Chopin’s Prelude in G (op. 28, no. 3), a performance which, as described by a journalist, had “come back to life: his gentle touch, his luminosity, even his mistakes, like the light brush of an extra note at the periphery of the final chord” (Midgette 2005) This “mistake” was later used to verify the authenticity of Zenph’s reperformance by the concert pianist Mei-Ting Sun (Midgette 2005).
(48) For example, trumpeter Charles Tolliver was also funded by the Jazz Loft Project at Duke University (itself funded by NEH and NEA) to re-create Monk’s Town Hall concert. Tolliver’s re-enactment hewed much more closely to the characteristics of Replay than Moran’s. Tolliver (who performed with Monk early in his career and who attended the original 1959 concert) re-enacted the concert for its fiftieth anniversary (“nearly to the day”) at the original venue. An account of the event at npr.org describes the event, privileging all of the fetishistic obsessions of Replay. The article mentions that relatives of Monk and Overton, as well as the original French horn player, Robert Northern, were all in the audience and praised Tolliver’s dutiful capturing of details, including the opening quartet and original tempi: “Fifty years later, nearly to the day, trumpeter Charles Tolliver presented an evening-length re-creation of Monk’s Town Hall concert, with new note-for-note scoring of the big-band portion, as well as arrangements of the little-known quartet show which opened the night’s program. Tolliver had obviously studied Monk’s music intently, leading a precise performance which replicated the layered beauty and driving swing of the original—even down to the encore of ‘Little Rootie Tootie,’ played at a faster tempo than the version which appeared in the body of the concert, just like in Monk’s show” http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101140318&refresh=true.
(52) Moran (2008). The Big Bandwagon consists of Moran on piano, Ralph Alessi, trumpet; Walter Smith, tenor saxophone; Logan Richardson III, alto saxophone; Frank Lacy, trombone; Bob Stewart, tuba; Tarus Mateen, bass; and Nasheet Waits, drums.
(57) The phrase was taken from a recorded comment by Monk during one of the rehearsals, which Moran had, in fact, misheard. What Monk had actually said while discussing some music was “for my mind.” Moran remembered it as “in my mind” and began to ponder the phrase, listening to when other people in his life used it. He then created a sound collage wherein he tried to repeat the particular cadence of the way each person said “in my mind.” See Hawkins (2009).