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  1. #1

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    I’m probably going to get my butt kicked for this, but ...

    I recently listened to a famous player’s rendition of “My Romance” in which the harmony was radically altered, possibly to make it more “modern.” And good for them! Well done, but it got me thinking... why would anyone prefer listening to this rather than to the original (and great) changes? It wasn’t better... probably worse... just different. I’m sure it was fun for the musicians, but...

    And it occurred to me (as someone who himself plays a lot of jazz) that most jazz is a lot more fun to play than to listen to. I often think, when listening to some impressive, virtuosic, but overlong attack on a jazz standard, altered almost to the breaking point ... why would a non-player want to listen to this? Super fun to play, but kind of sour on the ears for a non-player...
    Last edited by Rsilver; 07-19-2019 at 09:13 AM.

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  3. #2

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    On the original question - no. Not in general. It depends.

    Some of this modern style applied to standards does seem rather pointless to me though, I'll admit. Given the way that some guys play these old tunes the original need not have ever been written. The performance sounds like a different animal altogether, so the playing really needs to be terrific - and I mean musically, not technically.

    We need more good composers.

  4. #3

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    I think that's how people who aren't jazz listeners think. They think of it as one blanket music. Which is fine, it takes some time to develop good jazz taste.
    Jazz isn't a thing for jazz listeners. You don't listen to jazz, you listen to Charlie Parker or Peter Bernstein or who ever you feel like hearing in that moment.
    It's like other styles of music. People don't go out to hear classical music. They buy tickets to hear the music of a composer that they like. You go out to see a band you know, you don't go out to hear some alternative rock.
    It's even more specific than that, sometimes I feel like listening to Autumn in New York, sometimes I'm in the mood for The Ballad Artistry of Buddy Tate. I'm not thinking that it's jazz, it's Miles Davis or Jimmy Smith or Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 07-19-2019 at 09:59 AM.
    Never play anything that's hard. If it's hard, don't play it. -- Joe Pass

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rsilver View Post
    I’m probably going to get my butt kicked for this, but ...

    I recently listened to a famous player’s rendition of “My Romance” in which the harmony was radically altered, possibly to make it more “modern.” And good for them! Well done, but it got me thinking... why would anyone prefer listening to this rather than to the original (and great) changes? It wasn’t better... probably worse... just different. I’m sure it was fun for the musicians, but...

    And it occurred to me (as someone who himself plays a lot of jazz) that most jazz is a lot more fun to play than to listen to. I often think, when listening to some impressive, virtuosic, but overlong attack on a jazz standard, altered almost to the breaking point ... why would a non-player want to listen to this? Super fun to play, but kind of sour on the ears for a non-player...
    I really don’t have a pithy reply.

    Although a friend of mine once said the main thing is not to play jazz, but to play music.

    I think doing a clever jazz thing is not always the same as music.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    I think that's how people who aren't jazz listeners think. They think of it as one blanket music. Which is fine, it takes some time to develop good jazz taste.
    Jazz isn't a thing for jazz listeners. You don't listen to jazz, you listen to Charlie Parker or Peter Bernstein or who ever you feel like hearing in that moment.
    It's like other styles of music. People don't go out to hear classical music. They buy tickets to hear the music of a composer or a piece that they like. You go out to see a band you know, you don't go out to hear some alternative rock.
    It's even more specific than that, sometimes I feel like listening to Autumn in New York, sometimes I'm in the mood for The Ballad Artistry of Buddy Tate. I'm not thinking that it's jazz, it's Miles Davis or Jimmy Smith or Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery.

    Yes and no.

    There is no doubt a desire to listen to personality driven/artist driven performances, especially where soloists are concerned. But even with that, it's not an absolute. The music has to be good.

    That is made obvious when we hear one of our favorite players playing something that we don't like nearly so well as other things that they play. And when we hear someone new (to us anyway) how do we decide whether we like it? We decide based on musicality.

    One case in point - I listen to SiriusXM Real Jazz during my long commutes. I hear a lot of music and players that I don't know (which is a big part of the value proposition, of course). Sometimes my reaction is... "meh", shrug. But sometimes I find myself diving into my console for a pen to write down the tune and name of the players because I just have to hear it again.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rsilver View Post
    I’m probably going to get my butt kicked for this, but ...

    I recently listened to a famous player’s rendition of “My Romance” in which the harmony was radically altered, possibly to make it more “modern.” And good for them! Well done, but it got me thinking... why would anyone prefer listening to this rather than to the original (and great) changes? It wasn’t better... probably worse... just different. I’m sure it was fun for the musicians, but...

    And it occurred to me (as someone who himself plays a lot of jazz) that most jazz is a lot more fun to play than to listen to. I often think, when listening to some impressive, virtuosic, but overlong attack on a jazz standard, altered almost to the breaking point ... why would a non-player want to listen to this? Super fun to play, but kind of sour on the ears for a non-player...
    For any form of musical noise-making you can imagine, there are people who like it genuinely and emotionally. The audience of people for that version of "My Romance" may be very very small, but it's not zero, and it's not all other musicians. For sure, if it is actually super fun to play, there will be people who detect that and respond to musicians enjoying themselves even if they don't fully grok what's going on and/or are turned off by some aspects of it. Why? Why does anyone like anything? There's no real answer -- they just do.

    John

  8. #7

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    On the original question: definitely. Although I wouldn't always call it fun :-)

  9. #8

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    I think jazzstndt saying 'we need good composers' sums it up. Basically the compositional integrity of music should override its tendency towards mere instrumental or conceptual excess. By which I mean, you might have 8,000,000 cool chords to play on a standard, but as a composer/arranger your job is to work out what is effective as a piece, what tells a story or sets a mood (or whatever else a piece might do) and to surpress the tendency of the instrumentalist to play everything they know.

    All my favourite jazz improvisers have this quality too.

  10. #9

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    For me jazz is enjoyable to listen to if the performance is really good. It's hard to play well enough for it to be enjoyable to the listener. For the intermediate or beginner performance I think it's more fun to play than to listen to.
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I think jazzstndt saying 'we need good composers' sums it up. Basically the compositional integrity of music should override its tendency towards mere instrumental or conceptual excess. By which I mean, you might have 8,000,000 cool chords to play on a standard, but as a composer/arranger your job is to work out what is effective as a piece, what tells a story or sets a mood (or whatever else a piece might do) and to surpress the tendency of the instrumentalist to play everything they know.

    All my favourite jazz improvisers have this quality too.
    One person's "instrumental or conceptual excess" is another's "rich and complex story." As a listener, I try to approach music with the attitude that the performer intends the second even if I only perceive the first.

    John

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by John A. View Post
    One person's "instrumental or conceptual excess" is another's "rich and complex story." As a listener, I try to approach music with the attitude that the performer intends the second even if I only perceive the first.

    John
    Oh I think we can intuit the difference. I’ve definitely been to a few gigs that have been total wank and it’s been evident to everyone. Famous musicians too, who have done great things.

    But that said, what the performer intends and whatever the audience gets from it have never been exactly the same thing.

    I just tell myself these things to keep me sane. TS Elliot and all that.

  13. #12

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    There's a lot of taste and style involved.

    That aside, I think that intermediate players have more fun playing than their listeners have listening.

    But, when the jazz is truly great, the listening experience can catch up a bit.

    I don't think it can equal the thrill that one feels when the music is really at a high level -- and you're helping create it. But, it can be great for the listener.

    Of course, great players don't necessarily make great jazz every time.

  14. #13

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    There is a lot of bad or mediocre jazz
    and , for sure, it's an individual taste thing

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rsilver View Post
    And it occurred to me (as someone who himself plays a lot of jazz) that most jazz is a lot more fun to play than to listen to. I often think, when listening to some impressive, virtuosic, but overlong attack on a jazz standard, altered almost to the breaking point ... why would a non-player want to listen to this? Super fun to play, but kind of sour on the ears for a non-player...
    I don't think most people really hear harmony in a detailed way or appreciate things like reharmonizations as such. It's like salt in cooking, if a dish is under-salted, people can taste there's something wrong with it, but a properly seasoned dish is mostly not gonna taste "salty" really. For me, harmony is like that.

    That said, in NYC, a lot of people at jazz shows are musicians. Certainly not all venues, but it's not like there's tons of people going out to listen closely to jazz music that aren't musicians; that's an extremely niche thing, probably mostly always has been, and probably mostly will be. The same thing is true in a lot of niche sports, how many people do you think that follow ultramarathons, are NOT themselves runners? probably a relatively small percentage.

    Honestly, the most successful places I know that have a lot of people that come, the music is secondary, in terms of it being part of the overall vibe and atmosphere: There's a place I play in SF that has great cocktails, good food, very nice space with lots of decor and prohibition era vibe, and they have jazz every night, usually 2 bands. All kinds of people come out, it's super fun and people love it. No one gives a shit about the harmony or what tunes are being played, people just care that the music is moving, there's a live band over there and it's part of the character of the place. I personally LOVE this kind of place, I feel like this kind of place is the future of live music for most musicians.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcsanwald View Post
    I don't think most people really hear harmony in a detailed way or appreciate things like reharmonizations as such. It's like salt in cooking, if a dish is under-salted, people can taste there's something wrong with it, but a properly seasoned dish is mostly not gonna taste "salty" really. For me, harmony is like that.

    That said, in NYC, a lot of people at jazz shows are musicians. Certainly not all venues, but it's not like there's tons of people going out to listen closely to jazz music that aren't musicians; that's an extremely niche thing, probably mostly always has been, and probably mostly will be. The same thing is true in a lot of niche sports, how many people do you think that follow ultramarathons, are NOT themselves runners? probably a relatively small percentage.

    Honestly, the most successful places I know that have a lot of people that come, the music is secondary, in terms of it being part of the overall vibe and atmosphere: There's a place I play in SF that has great cocktails, good food, very nice space with lots of decor and prohibition era vibe, and they have jazz every night, usually 2 bands. All kinds of people come out, it's super fun and people love it. No one gives a shit about the harmony or what tunes are being played, people just care that the music is moving, there's a live band over there and it's part of the character of the place. I personally LOVE this kind of place, I feel like this kind of place is the future of live music for most musicians.
    If I may ask, which place in SF is that?

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    If I may ask, which place in SF is that?
    Mr Tipple's!

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rsilver View Post
    as someone who himself plays a lot of jazz, most jazz is a lot more fun to play than to listen to.

    I often think, when listening to some impressive, virtuosic, but overlong attack on a jazz standard, altered almost to the breaking point ... why would a non-player want to listen to this? Super fun to play, but kind of sour on the ears for a non-player...
    How can this question have one answer when you are lumping both players and non-players together? You are assuming that jazz fans that are non-players are too naive to enjoy advanced jazz improvisation?? I mean, why else would someone be a jazz fan in the 21st century?

    Listeners love to listen, players love to play....

  19. #18
    Recently.. for a few years now, I try to figure out if a musical piece is good primarily for the sound/performance or the ideas. Often it can be both but it's not so easy sometimes.
    For any genre with well-established traditional sound, it has to have good ideas to be universally attractive I think. To work without any "taste" issues. Plenty of those in jazz. My favorite is this to demonstrate the awesome emotional potential of jazz to anyone who says otherwise :
    .