Louis Meets Death Metal & Other Audiovisual Musical Mash-Ups: Creative or Obscene?

When, back in 1999, Kenny G added his chirpy soprano sax to Louis Armstrong‘s classic recording of “What a Wonderful World,” I reeled in disgust. Or, at least, I was very, very annoyed by the thing. Even worse, the popular saxophone owner, in concert, did a “duet” with an Armstrong video clip.

That was obscene, right? Plenty of jazz devotees thought so.

Pat Metheny reportedly said, in response, “With this single move, Kenny G became one of the few people on earth I can say that I really can’t use at all — as a man, for his incredible arrogance to even consider such a thing, and as a musician, for presuming to share the stage with the single most important figure in our music.”

But when an obscure guitarist syncs his roaring death metal version of the same tune to that Armstrong clip, why do I find it uproariously funny?

Is it a double standard on my part – you know, it’s okay to mix Louis with dark and speedy guitar rock, but not with smooth jazz?

I’m still not sure. All I know is that there’s just such shock and surprise at hearing/seeing a blenderizing of two genres that don’t at all belong together, that one can’t help feeling jolted by the experience. The combination of death metal and Louis Armstrong — the absurdity of the “disconnect” — is so bizarre, I guess, that the result is just plain funny.

Not everyone has reacted that way, though. An old friend of mine, a jazz musician, said that he found it “obscene.”

I respect, and understand, that reaction. But the video, to me, feels more like a musical art project. Kenny G borrowed (stole?) an older artist’s work in order to support his own, to profit financially. Andy Rehfeldt, the guitarist and songwriter who created the metal/Louis clip (with vocals by The Markness), seems to have put together his project just for creative kicks — to see how well he could make his song sync with the video, and to see what reaction it might get.

Rehfeldt’s home page on YouTube has tons of other mash-ups, including reggae-fied Kiss, metaled-out Hannah Montana, and my second favorite clip — Metallica‘s “Enter Sandman,” smooth-jazz style.

Funny stuff, according to me. What do you think?