Okay, the article…
As Nate Chinen hints at, Gold Sounds -- the new record of Pavement covers by James Carter, Cyrus Chestnut, Reginald Veal, and Ali Jackson -- is a producer-driven project. The boys behind Brown Brothers Recordings came up with the concept and brought the musicians -- who by their own admission, didn't know Pavement from Melt Banana -- into the studio to execute it.
A brief blurb in Now (Toronto) gives us the origin story:
Ever wondered what Pavement songs would sound like if interpreted by the best of the new suit jazz crew? Neither have I, but Alan Suback and some fellow Pavement fans went to a benefit concert and thought, "What if Wynton Marsalis 's kick-ass band - Cyrus Chestnut , Reginald Veal , Ali Jackson and James Carter - lent their serious chops to Summer Babe, Cut Your Hair, Trigger Cut, etc?"
Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with producer-driven jazz projects. [I've only heard one track off of Gold Sounds so I can't really comment on this particular record one way or the other -- but if you wanna check 'em out live, Carter et al. are at the Iridium this week.] But it's an odd lede for an article that is mostly about jazz musicians who do actually listen to indie rock (broadly construed -- Radiohead and Wilco count as "indie" here) and incorporate those influences into their music in a significant way. The remainder of Chinen's article artfully traces those paths.
Now, everybody knows about Brad Mehldau's several Radiohead covers, but it's also not hard to hear echoes of the band's oblique harmonies and cinematic song structure in Mehldau's own writing, and even his approach to standards. And, on Largo, Brad collaborated with golden boy producer Jon Brion (whose star is rising thanks to his work on Kanye West's Late Registration and the rejected-but-widely-circulated original version of Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine). The rock/pop inflections in Brad's playing and trio concept would be just as obvious even if he never played any tune written after 1955.
The Bad Plus are infamous for their wry covers of "Heart of Glass," "Chariots of Fire," etc, but their real strength is in their brilliantly constructed originals. (Last Saturday, opening for Ornette Coleman, the only cover was Ornette's "Street Woman.") There's a widely-held misconception that indie rock fans only like the Bad Plus because they play "Iron Man," but it's actually the opposite -- I know a lot of indie rock snobs who hated The Bad Plus until they heard originals like "Frog and Toad" and discovered that TBP weren't the jazz equivalent of Dread Zeppelin or Hayseed Dixie.
Chinen goes on to briefly touch on the long established noise-rock/avant-jazz axis (Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Nels Cline, etc) before discussing some of the younger indie-influenced jazzers like Kneebody (also in town this week) and other Shane Endsley projects, Todd Sickafoose, my friend and fellow NEC alum Mike Gamble, and Eivind Opsvik -- all great players who embrace the indie-rock DIY spirit.
The point here is that the musical values of the people who read Pitchfork -- and the people who mock the people who read Pitchfork -- communication, integrity, sincerity, intensity, freshness, broad-mindedness, relevance -- are all exactly the same as what our musical values should be as creative jazz musicians. And if you, as a jazz musician, are serious about reaching the "indie rock crowd" -- which seems to be shorthand here for "intelligent music fan, age 21-35, always looking for new bands but doesn't normally go to jazz clubs" -- you have to prove that you can communicate those shared musical values to someone whose record collection is wildly different from yours. There are no shortcuts for this. You don't establish your indie-rock cred by, say, coming out with a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah cover record. You do it by taking whatever you value in that music and making it yours.
 Which looks like it just might see an official release after all.