Combat Zone

AI-Produced Jazz Record Wins Album of the Year

AI-produced jazz record “A Supreme Kind of Bitches Blue” won the Grammy Award for Jazz Album of the Year, alarming many as to the encroachment of technology onto this unique and intricate art form. The AI that produced the record, dubbed COLTRADAVISMONK (CDM), was reportedly trained on a dataset consisting of genre-defining records from various points in jazz history including Thelonious Monk’s “Genius of Modern Music Volume 2,” Art Blakey and the Messengers’ “Moanin’,” and Billie Holiday’s “Billie Holiday Sings.” It was also trained by the Spotify playlist titled “ya like jazz?” with a cover image of Barry B. Benson from “Bee Movie.” As per the researchers behind CDM, Thelonious Monk’s “no wrong notes” ethos was one of the sources of inspiration for the project:

“We took Monk’s whole thing about there being no wrong notes as he intended it, literally. That’s why we programmed the early iterations to play notes at random: if there are no wrong notes, then any note can go anywhere. We figured that if we couldn’t tell the difference between those random notes, and [Monk’s song] “Straight, No Chaser,” the average jazz critic wouldn’t be able to tell either. And we were right! Our early sample recordings were originally thought to be lost Ornette Coleman recordings. Only, we had to change up the programming after the constant dissonance caused one of our programmers to have an aneurysm.” Interestingly, the path from this dissonant-centric approach to the current, Grammy-winning iteration of CDM was in no way direct. Instead, the researchers behind CDM spent two months trying to answer the question: “what made those classic jazz records both critically and commercially appealing?” For a time, heroin seemed to be a promising answer, given how many pioneering jazz musicians used the drug. However, attempts to hook CDM on TikTok, described as “digital heroin” by one researcher, were somewhat successful at bridging the commercial-critical gap but were abandoned after the AI began to include Subway Surfers sound effects and lyrics about “love bombing” in its music.

Allegedly, the current version of CDM arose by complete accident. Due to a copying error, popular jazz musician Kenny G’s version of “What a Wonderful World” was added to the AI’s dataset instead of Louis Armstrong’s. The inclusion of this singular track changed CDM’s approach to generating jazz music entirely; As per one researcher: “It’s freaky, this AI figured out the basic components of Kenny G’s music from a single song, and just kept repeating it. Basically what Kenny G does, but much faster.”

Considering the Grammy win, this approach is more successful as well: CDM beat out legendary jazz musicians like Wayne Shorter, who performed alongside Art Blakey and Miles Davis, much to the dismay of jazz critics worldwide. When reached for comment, critic Wayne Taller responded: “Look. I would say that “A Supreme Kind of Bitches Blue” sounds like you trained an AI to rip off Kenny G, and I would mean every word of that insult, but when that’s literally the case, what more can I say?” However, Taller did note that no matter how badly it stung to see an AI win a Grammy for ripping off Kenny G, watching Harry Styles say “this doesn’t happen to people like [him] very often” in his Grammy acceptance speech hurt even worse.”