The Joyce Hatto Scandal and Jazz?
All of this got me thinking about if anything like this has gone on in the jazz world, and how might it be dealt with. The thing about this that amazes me the most is that thee vaunted classical critics who praised Hatto's playing didn't notice that it was someone else earlier. It took Gracenote's CD ID technology, which determines the names of your songs in programs like iTunes by scanning the lengths of the tracks on the CD, to figure it out.
Perhaps some of it is due to the sheer volume of material the critics and classical aficionados listen to, or perhaps it's that they don't really listen all that much after all. If a jazz artist released a CD that was someone else's work, I think (or at least would hope) that most jazz critics would pick up on it, and say "haven't I heard this before." Again we all know the jazz and classical worlds are different, but still, is jazz immune from such a scandal. I can foresee a future where something like this does happen in jazz, but perhaps in a different way.
We've already seen Concord Records market "Ray Sings, Basie Swings" an album that contains not a single note of music from Count Basie (modern day Basie tracks were dubbed in to cover up Ray's original backup band). Supposedly a new project (also from producer Greg Field) is on the way that brings Ella Fitzgerald (back from the grave, or at least the vault) together with new tracks recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra.
These recordings are very profitable for the record companies and estates. Finding new "gems" from the vault by big names, who are dead, and thus not producing new content, is one of the only sure ways to make big money in today's music business. While there seems to be an almost inexhaustible supply of vault material, perhaps someday, might we see fake recordings marketed as the "long lost work of jazz great XYZ" but which are in actual fact, mere modern recreations of such.
Uncertainty of the provenance of jazz recordings is also nothing new. Jazz discographies are notoriously murky on many early sessions. Experts often try to discern if that really is Cootie Williams on that track or did so and so take his place that night, etc. Likewise, many jazz musicians have made their mark imitating the work of others, sometimes so closely it's hard to tell master from pupil. It is entirely conceivable that jazz could one day face a situation similar to the Joyce Hatto case. Let's hope it doesn't come to that though. And if it does happen, let's hope jazz listeners are more astute than their classical peers.