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The Arrested Development of the Jazz Standard


Adan

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From Jazz Standards dot com:

 

The 1970s-2000 in Song

 

"Prior to the 1960s, popular songs were the primary source for the majority of entries on the jazz standards list. There were significantly fewer in the decade from 1960-1970, where the mix of popular song, songs from Broadway shows, and jazz originals is, for the first time, evenly balanced. The jazz standards list from the decade 1970-1980 has only 14 tunes, of which one, Superstition, comes from pop music, and one (Send in the Clowns) from a Broadway show. The remaining songs are jazz originals, as is the only tune from the 1980s, Love Dance.

 

Although during the 70s and 80s there were pop songs with melodies and harmonies capable of being adapted as jazz vehicles, musicians seemed to be either going back to the music before the 1960s (especially tunes classified as jazz standards) or writing their own material. If the trend of popular music continues to move away from melody and harmony into rhythmic based music (hip hop and rap), in may be an indication that jazz musicians will continue to look to older material or originals for their repertoire."

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." Find over 750 of Harry’s piano arrangements of standards for educational purposes and jazz piano tutorials at www.Patreon.com/HarryLikas

 

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Back on topic...

 

At one of my jazz gigs, someone from the audience approached me and said that he composed jazz tunes and would we be interested in playing them. So since I wanted to be on good terms at the venue I agreed. I had to a little cleanup on what I got and the singer had to rehearse the tune. But in the end, I said to myself:

 

Who really needs another ii-V-I tune? So we played it once (not well since we didn't know it well enough). But I said never again.

 

Haven't all the great ii-V-I progressions already been cemented in those old tunes? What's the purpose of a slight variation? And course any manner of Major and Minor blues have been done.

 

By the time we got to Jobim, it became a lot of Tritone subs so ii-bII7-I became the order of the day. So that's been done too.

 

Then came Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Herbie, and Chick that introduced more unusual forms and changes (Naima, Nefertiti, Infant Eyes, Maiden Voyage, Dolphin Dance, Spain...).

 

Isn't the point of jazz standard to provide an improvising platform? Then for something to get added to the Standards list, the platform has to be unique (i.e. the changes) and interesting.

 

And let's face, the changes in many existing standards are the same (all versions of rhythm changes, major blues, minor blues, iii-vi-ii-V-I in one key, ii-V modulate to 12 keys, modal-don't change chords, giant-steps-like-changes, fourth/quartal progressions).

 

The one who breaks into the Standards list has to be new. Well, that's a difficult prospect isn't it? Maybe that's why Herbie resorted to free jazz at his concert with Wayne Shorter earlier this year. I guess he couldn't come up with something recognizably new either.

 

So what could this new progression be?

 

In fact, most players will just existing standards and reharm those directly since that's a lot simpler. Given this, do we ever even need new Standards? Just to play a different head?

 

 

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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Good question missRT, but people who listen to me play would argue that I'm not focused on the harmony enough and I'm too focused on the melody :)

 

So to correct your assumption, I'm more heavily melody focused and my teacher directs me that way. However, I told you about my observation of KJ's playing. To me, he shifts from harmonic texture (typically the fast stuff) to melodic lines. My teacher says, listen to that and observe the balance between the two. And he says that balance that comes out is my "voice". KJ probably has one of the highest melodic content ratios out there.

 

Now we may have a definition problem here because a lot of bebop to my ears is harmonic embellishment played to syncopation. You may disagree. Maybe Charlie Parker can arrive at a melodic form at fast tempo, but generally, I find that there's a heavy bias towards harmonic (and that includes Herbie lately too).

 

When I talk of harmony in a melodic sense (on the piano), I'm acutely aware of the "orchestration" of voices, like Classical music. Melody played cantabile. Harmony of chords played to support the melody but melody is up on top.

 

You know this wasn't the style of playing of Bud Powell nor Wynton Kelly. This is neither a good nor bad thing. I'm just drawn to the orchestral element in jazz piano. This is what Bill Evans started and then went on to further redefine the Jazz Piano Trio concept and is the style I shoot for.

 

And this isn't about swing or non-swing either. It's just about making the maximum effect from 3 low volume instruments.

 

Do you play piano in a jazz trio format missRT or are you more of a keyboard man? This in itself influences a lot of differences in thinking.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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I'm not commenting on versatility. I realize everyone has to do what they have to do to make a living and whatever the audience demands.

 

I'm just talking about a focus. Since I'm trying to head towards a more piano trio style, it just instills a certain sense of direction in what I do. Mind you, I don't play in a Piano trio. Mostly I'm with horns with quartet or quintet. But when I'm woodshedding, I'm thinking about solo piano.

 

When I'm thinking in this context, then I realize that as a pianist, I play a larger part and the orchestration of the piano sound becomes part of that goal. So it should come as no surprise that I will listen to pianists that might influence me in that area.

 

 

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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I have been thinking of starting a blues band and calling it THREE CHORD NIGHT.

 

Popular music just isn't written in the way it was 50 or 60 years ago. Jazz musicians almost never borrow from the harmonic forms and create melodic "heads" based on current popular tunes the way they used to.

 

I always seem to prefer jazz compositions as opposed to hearing musicians playing over standards, which in most cases were written to be popular vocal tunes or show tunes etc.

 

A lot of the major jazz people who currently perform ( fill in the blanks here with some of your all time favorites ) are still writing, but the exposure just isn't the same.

 

That may be because radio stations have been recycling so much music so they won't have to take a risk and play anything that hasn't already been proven.

 

But if you tune into some of the major jazz stations like KKJZ WBGO or KMHD, you will hear some great new compositions. That is why it is important to suppport non commercial radio whenever possible, and keep listening.

 

 

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When I talk of harmony in a melodic sense (on the piano), I'm acutely aware of the "orchestration" of voices, like Classical music. Melody played cantabile. Harmony of chords played to support the melody but melody is up on top.

 

You know this wasn't the style of playing of Bud Powell nor Wynton Kelly. This is neither a good nor bad thing. I'm just drawn to the orchestral element in jazz piano. This is what Bill Evans started and then went on to further redefine the Jazz Piano Trio concept and is the style I shoot for.

 

.

 

Please clarify your claim it wasn't the style of Bud Powell and Wynton Kelly. That they didn't play "cantabile" melody with harmony of chords to support. I think you are mistaken there.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." Find over 750 of Harry’s piano arrangements of standards for educational purposes and jazz piano tutorials at www.Patreon.com/HarryLikas

 

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Jazz+, this is what I know so please feel free to educate me if I got it wrong. I always want to understand the history.

 

I know Bud Powell focused on the RH and did shell voicings on the Left. So he was known for that and he's the go to guy for Bebop.

 

Wynton was known for Rhythm and may be the foremost guy I would go to for swing. But I'm not talking about just playing chords on the LH anyway. I'm talking about the classical music influence that Bill Evans brought in with the kind of dynamics/tone control that he introduced. As you know Bill Evans would play two handed chords with the melody on top a lot and would solo like that too, and reharmonizations included in those 2 hands. Something that's pretty prevalent today.

 

In that era ('40s), if I were to think of a pianistic jazz player, it might be Hank Jones. Though unfortunately he was relegated to the background. So it's often the players with Classical training. I don't actually know he Hank sounded back in the 40's since most of what I have of him is later.

 

But do I need to explain that Bill Evans not just played pianistically but introduced all the voicing techniques we all take for granted today? I'm sure we all know that. I read in his biography how everyone was copying him back then.

 

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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I feel I made a mistake by putting "jazz" in the thread title. In retrospect, it was an obvious invitation for some people to continue a lively discussion about what constitutes jazz, or jazz piano, or swing . . . I'm not even sure really. It's a bunch of trees and I'm trying to look at the forest. But aside from all that, it was still a good thread. Let's quite while we're ahead!

Gigging: Crumar Mojo 61, Hammond SKPro

Home: Vintage Vibe 64

 

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The peculiar aspect of how Standards are played in 'Jazz' (the term 'Jazz',has become more & more vague in these times) is that many younger players see them in either a vastly different context from their origin, or that they are 'lame' & for old folks, & that something 'new' is needed. We have to remember that standards & show tunes were composed during a vastly different period in time, when the so-called 'cutting edge' of Musical Culture was either Avant Garde modern classical, or Swing in the Speakeasy environment. Whenever I played with older players (including the Be-boppers 40's & 50's) the material ranged from the Bird tunes,Jobim, some of the more ;contemporary Coltrane-type things , & blues. But when a standard was mentioned, most of the older players would seem to adapt a special, devotional attitude. And, being a younger player, if you played them, they would look at your approach to harmony with a much more alert scrutiny.

On the other hand, the Berklee-type players seemed to view Standards as 'nice changes' to 'blow' on. The melody & lyrics were abrubtly shoved aside,( or played in a very mechanical, casual way) & the chord changes were the focal point. If any other players (or teachers) were present, one could easily intuit the pain they were experiencing listening to these hallowed melodies being desicrated with smug self-assurance)

There was no top 40 rock, blues, or anything rockabilly during World War II, or the post-war era , to place against whatever the 'cutting edge' was at that time. Be-Bop WAS the cutting edge, (along with the more cerebral offerings of THIRD STREAM, as an alternative)

There are certain modern-day composers who write for shows, (or privately) who seek to emulate the 'Golden era' of standards, but I have to admit : it makes me think of some anal-compulsive team lead working on the Titanic who, after colliding with the great iceberg, busies himself with straightening out the deck chairs, rather then admit that a certain SHIFT in consciousness (or the times) is begging to incarnate into the Modern Mindset.

I learned as many standards as i could when in my early 20's. being a piano player, i easily became bored with just blues & rhtym changes, & because i could not keep up with the Chop-masters, I could at least stump them with obscure tunes, in weird keys, & would play confusing intros that would leave them utterly confused. In other words, I 'used' standards as a self-gratifying reaction to the chop-masters. Only later, when i began to study singing, did I really understand the real timelessness that was inherent in many of the standards (at least the GOOD ones).

Nowadays, I think that Standards have their place in a set, but one should not ignore the more modern offerings of Jazz players who dealt for years with conflicting feelings abut the Past, as well as the Prresent, & the Future.

I may have overstated my feelings on this topic, but coming from me, that doesn't seem alien. In fact, many people who hear me grope thru my earnest (but at times, plodding) performances, acutally tihin I am an Alien. Maybe we ALL are.

robert w nuckels
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thank you, Michelle. to be honest, I made every harmonic & melodic mistake possible ( and still do) when playing standards. I still think that the standard is one of the best (if not the best) vehicles for understanding diatonic harmony & it's connection to the lead line. this is true , regardless of what instrument is played. One can tell, moreover, when hearing one play (even something like KIND OF BLUE ) a solo, if that player is grounded in standards, or is just playing something UNGROUNDED in anything but theory (or copying) the same is true with some of the best Jazz composers (wayne shorter, miles, freddie hubbard,etc) in their compositions.
robert w nuckels
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........ I like hearing how people bring their own personality to standards. I like to hear how someone would play Someday My Prince Will Come *differently* than Miles. Standards are part of the foundation of the music, and I can hear it when a player hasn't taken the time to learn how to play standards - there's something vital to the music that's missing in their playing. I also like hearing new tunes. I am less enthused hearing people who can't play the music fluently who concern themselves with nothing but newer music. Much like smooth jazz, where the originators were great jazzers and the people who followed didn't bother to learn any more than it took to play smooth jazz, modern 'jazz' musicians who lack the foundation are painful for me to hear. The music is empty.

 

You're best post ever K.... :thu:

 

I learned as many standards as i could when in my early 20's. being a piano player, i easily became bored with just blues & rhtym changes, & because i could not keep up with the Chop-masters, I could at least stump them with obscure tunes, in weird keys, & would play confusing intros that would leave them utterly confused. In other words, I 'used' standards as a self-gratifying reaction to the chop-masters. Only later, when i began to study singing, did I really understand the real timelessness that was inherent in many of the standards (at least the GOOD ones). .

 

Are you Jimmy Rowles re-incarnated ? :):cool: You sound exactly like him talking to me when I was 25. This was around 1980 , a year after I arrived in LA. There were plenty of chop-meisters, has he called them, around then to impress this very green kid from the Midwest. Rowles knew, I won't say every standard, but enough to qualify him has an encyclopedia, at least to me. He knew the obscure ones, the verses, he knew the lyrics, the best tempos for the lyrics to come across. He had his "special" changes for most. He could even tell you a story how Ella or Lady Day liked to change keys depending how their voice was feeling that day. The guy was a national treasure sitting in his little house in N. Hollywood and doing $50 gigs around town. A study in class and humility--something GREATLY missing from the under 40 generation today. He needless to say had a huge influence on me and my respect for the tradition. What he talked about and casually showed me was something that could not be taught at Berklee or anywhere else. He could say more in one chorus, of playing or singing in his deeply personal style, then most of the chops-meisters playing a dozen choruses at quarter note = 325 on Cherokee/rhythm changes/etc.

 

. One can tell, moreover, when hearing one play (even something like KIND OF BLUE ) a solo, if that player is grounded in standards, or is just playing something UNGROUNDED in anything but theory (or copying) the same is true with some of the best Jazz composers (wayne shorter, miles, freddie hubbard,etc) in their compositions.

 

I'll simply add another big YEP...

https://soundcloud.com/dave-ferris

https://www.youtube.com/@daveferris2709

 

2005 NY Steinway D, Yamaha AvantGrand N3X, CP88, P515

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How many jazz standards can we think of that were written in 1970 or later? Birdland comes to mind, but that's not a very typical jazz standard.

 

I agree that one reason is cultural irrelevance.

Another reason is that, well, a lot of the love of jazz is reminscence (and often, "borrowed reminiscence"). It harks to an era; that era is gone.

 

I'm tempted to add a third: that the ground is pretty well tilled. But I think human engenuity and the limitlessness of music contradict that, especially for such rich soil.

 

I disagree that nobody will care for jazz standards in 2040, or even 2140. Just as I'm sure people will still play and enjoy Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. The percentage of the population will probably dwindle, but the number of people interested will probably increase, and the resources available (for them to share, disseminate, communicate, cooperate, participate, etc) will increase.

 

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thank you, Michelle. to be honest, I made every harmonic & melodic mistake possible ( and still do) when playing standards. I still think that the standard is one of the best (if not the best) vehicles for understanding diatonic harmony & it's connection to the lead line. this is true , regardless of what instrument is played. One can tell, moreover, when hearing one play (even something like KIND OF BLUE ) a solo, if that player is grounded in standards, or is just playing something UNGROUNDED in anything but theory (or copying) the same is true with some of the best Jazz composers (wayne shorter, miles, freddie hubbard,etc) in their compositions.

 

You're very welcome. :) I make my share of mistakes all the time ... but I am not afraid to make them or admit that I do. Which means, I always hope to continually improve my understanding and, paramount to me, ability to reach the audience and say something "true." This indirectly has to do with the discussion of what standards will be in the future, and I can't analyze it any more than I have. I just have faith that great musicians and composers will make great music and some of it will have lasting impact.

Original Latin Jazz

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"I am not certain how original my contribution to music is as I am obviously an amateur." Patti Smith

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thank you, Dave Ferris for your kind words, especially about Jimmy rowles. I'm a little familiar with his work ; I'm very familiar with his stance on music ; without knowing it, i kind of modelled' my approach to music in a way that sounded very much like you described to me abut mr rowles. i consider them to be the 'real' heroes of Jazz (which, along with the Cinema, are arguably the 2 of the main contributions towards Cultural developement from America. I can certainly relate to YOUR opinion on Jazz & Standards. There's often a feeling of great tragedy associated with this type of Jazz.
robert w nuckels
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Brad: brilliant, fascinating, inventive, soulful at times.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." Find over 750 of Harry’s piano arrangements of standards for educational purposes and jazz piano tutorials at www.Patreon.com/HarryLikas

 

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That rendition of All The Things You Are was clearly a departure from the "typical" treatment of that standard.

 

I certainly enjoyed the Bachesque approach, and his execution was flawless, but the melodic beauty and rich harmony of the song never emerged for me. It did begin to sound like a "technical etude on a theme" after a while.

 

Once the the bass and drums entered at 3:50, it took on a more familiar and comfortable feel.

 

I liked it, I appreciated it, but it didn't do anything to release the magic written within for me, personally. Brad is one immense talent, though! What a monster.

Yamaha C7 Grand, My Hammonds: '57 B3, '54 C2, '42 BC, '40 D, '05 XK3 Pro System, Kawai MP9000, Fender Rhodes Mk I 73, Yamaha CP33, Motif ES6, Nord Electro 2, Minimoog Voyager & Model D, Korg MS10
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His virtuosity on the instrument is without question. His command of odd time sigs is unparalleled. The fact he is taking the music to new, different and never heard before heights shows his uncompromising artistry and a vision that certainly ranks him as a "stylist" right along side icons like Bud, Tatum, Herbie, Chick, Bill, McCoy, Keith. However his whole "thing" is simply not my thing.

 

I actually preferred his opening solo segment more then when the trio comes in after LG's solo (pt 2 of that vid). That was pretty staggering what he was doing there in the intro/prelude. However when they're all in full motion, for me Brad's lines just aren't swinging for the way I like to hear things. I hear what he's doing-his lines are very complex and abstract. The trio's playing with the time..speeding up and slowing down--very hard to pull off unless you're playing together all the time, but again not my cup of tea.

 

Probably because I'm coming more from be-bop, this resonates more with me.

It's swinging, more lyrical, more melody, more joy, less angst and just more fun for me to listen to. I connect with it. I don't connect at all with Brad's stuff, any of it--sorry tattoo/Radiohead generation guys. :)

 

[video:youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du2HpO-a0Q8&feature=related

 

 

https://soundcloud.com/dave-ferris

https://www.youtube.com/@daveferris2709

 

2005 NY Steinway D, Yamaha AvantGrand N3X, CP88, P515

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wow. I thought the Brad Bachesque version was incredible. I dug the intro more than the trio part also. I wouldn't want to hear an entire concert of that texture, but I think it's pretty incredible for that part, and I think it suits the harmony of the tune well. Good lawdy.

 

I also prefer the Keith version which is a little more to my taste.

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I thought Brad's intro to that tune was just a total blast. Like others, I wouldn't want to hear a whole concert done that way, but to hear a tune get that treatment is really interesting and in this case, fun.

 

I didn't dig KJ's intro, but the rest of the tune was cool.

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