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  1. #1

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    This is more a history question perhaps. Why is it that the tradition of basing jazz tunes on contemporary popular music ended after 20's and 30's?
    I get that jazz lost interest in being the music of dance halls (or may be the other way around*), but bebop and hard bop players (and beyond) continued to play these standards. It seems like since the bebop era, jazz musicians are expected to write their originals and play the standards more out of respect for tradition. Of course new standards were added after the 30's but they are almost always originals of jazz greats like Giant Steps, So What or Full House, not popular music of the time.
    Why don't people use tunes like Smells like teen spirit or Another brick in the wall or Creep as vehicles for improvisation?
    Copyrights?
    I think that would be one way of expanding the jazz audience and create more gigs.

    * I read in an interview with Barry Harris that bebop players never intended their music not be danced to. He said he actually would regularly go hear Charlie Parker in dance halls.

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  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    ... Why is it that the tradition of basing jazz tunes on contemporary popular music ended after 20's and 30's? ...
    I think a lot of the great American songbook came from (Broadway) show tunes that became staples in popular music as well as popular vehicles for jazz improv'.

    We still have show tunes becoming popular music. Memories (from Cats) is a somewhat recent example, relative to your "20s and 30s" reference.

    However, there *is* less of a popular interest in jazz improvisation on these vehicles.

  4. #3
    Yes but not all standards are based on show tunes. Though may be modern show tunes are more "worthy" of attention due to their compositional style being closer to the standards?

  5. #4

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    There are many contemporary players who consider the standards of jazz repertoire beyond the traditionalists' tin pan alley offerings.
    A lot of them, including Bill Frisell, Ben Monder, Sco, Pat Metheny to name a few consider songs of the Beatles, Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Webb to be of equal footing as Cole Porter and Jimmy Van Heusen
    David

  6. #5

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    It seems to me that that most successful jazz musicians are also composers. This is important in terms of them further defining their musical vision, but also in terms of creating another income stream with publishing, etc. The Duke Ellington model!

    Out riding the lawn mower the other day, I spent time thinking what would Chick Corea (or Frisell, Metheny, etc.) be doing today (career-wise) if he didn't compose. It seems that today you need to have the whole package together to succeed financially.

    In terms of approaching the pop tunes of the 60's as vehicles for jazz - I think most of those efforts end up sounding more like the Ventures than modern jazz. While harmony can always be 'hipped up', the lack of interesting melodies is a steep hill.

  7. #6

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    The three examples you suggested...






    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    This is more a history question perhaps. Why is it that the tradition of basing jazz tunes on contemporary popular music ended after 20's and 30's?
    I get that jazz lost interest in being the music of dance halls (or may be the other way around*), but bebop and hard bop players (and beyond) continued to play these standards. It seems like since the bebop era, jazz musicians are expected to write their originals and play the standards more out of respect for tradition. Of course new standards were added after the 30's but they are almost always originals of jazz greats like Giant Steps, So What or Full House, not popular music of the time.
    Why don't people use tunes like Smells like teen spirit or Another brick in the wall or Creep as vehicles for improvisation?
    Copyrights?
    I think that would be one way of expanding the jazz audience and create more gigs.

    * I read in an interview with Barry Harris that bebop players never intended their music not be danced to. He said he actually would regularly go hear Charlie Parker in dance halls.
    -When does a song become a standard? Who makes the call? What is "the great American song book" and who is the responsible publisher? Who maintains the list of songs in Real book; what songs to add and songs that have to go?

    The answer is not a clear-cut. You could publish your own book, the book of Tal, the real Real book, but it won't change the world.

    When 50 world class performers have covered a song on record and stage, it is a de facto standard in that time, but only for so long musicians continue to play it.

    In the 70's there was an attempt to compile the "book of Rock". Some of the included songs are more or less forgotten in 2019.

    The great American song book covers the period 1920-1950. The period we refer to as Jazz. Since then a number of styles have come and gone but won't give rise to any new "Jazz-standards".

    I think the more interesting question is; -What songs written in the new millenium will be covered by 50 world class performers in the next 50 years?

  9. #8

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    It seems there was already a longer thread about it...


    Why is it that the tradition of basing jazz tunes on contemporary popular music ended after 20's and 30's?
    Because jazz was that music.

    starting from 60s approximately there was a globalde-monopolization of style.

    Before mainely one style was there. But from 60s on it was getting more and more democratic... meaning that there appeared maby styles that could more or less survive at a time and audience or players could choose to some extent....

    I think it kept developing even untill today.... the reasons are probably very deep and connected with total democratization of society and culture in general ('everyone has the right for.... ' though it was said many years ago.. it becomes everyday reality (and sometime perversly scary) only today...

    I thinl it formed a new type of performer too... the one that can enhance different styles and create some kind of stylistic conversation/meditation (the term polystylism was used in classical music also beginning with 60s - it is when a style becomes a part of artistic language).... music of Frisell mentioned above is partly built on stylistic references... it alludes to different historical, artistic moments of American culture (different images, ideas etc). He does very directly - just using his taste and preferences - I mean he is not conceptualist about it of course.

    But for example Julian Lage does it in his own way too.... even the way he uses different guitars has some cultural reference in it.

    I think it is the tred of our time that player gets seemingly (or judging by physical presence) smaller audience and smaller community but they embrace bigger virtual artistic reality and virtual audience....

    Human personality changes... It seems that people just do not get that during last 30-40 years the world chamged much more than during 2000 years before that.

    Jazz Standard Conception belongs to the days before that actually... in some sense it is closer to the renaissance 'standard' conception than to modern thinking.

  10. #9

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    Dave Stryker has used some 70s tunes successfully on his ‘8-track’ recordings.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    Why don't people use tunes like Smells like teen spirit or Another brick in the wall or Creep as vehicles for improvisation?
    Perhaps it is because they are recordings rather than songs. The standards were originally songs from the musicals and movies that were published as sheet music, to be played at home and by bands in dance halls. Some of the many songs published became standards because many people played them and they became essential to the repertoire of the bands. They became common property, played by many and independent of their origins. For example, Stella by Starlight is much better known than The Uninvited, the film from which it came. The song has its own existence.

    In 1957 (I think) record sales overtook sheet music sales. A record is not a song, but a recording of a particular group of musicians playing a song. It remains the original. Over 2,200 covers of Yesterday have been made, but the original will always be the recording on the Beatles' Help album. A cover version can surpass its original in status (as the Hendrix version of All Along The Watchtower did to Dylan's original) but recordings do not become generic, as songs do. The best-known recording, the original or the dominant cover, remains paramount. Another Brick in the Wall belongs to Pink Floyd and Creep to Radiohead.

    Whenever one hears a cover of such a song, the original is in one's mind. A song can become a standard, but a recording cannot.

    Why no new standards?-uninvited-jpg

  12. #11

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    The main problem I suspect is that the lack of harmonic movement (chord changes) in most pop music since the 50s does not make them great vehicles for improvisation, from the perspective of many jazz players.

  13. #12

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    Would like to hear a jazz version of "Cold Gin" by Kiss.
    "As for me, all I know is that I know nothing." - Socrates
    “Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.” - Alan Wilson Watts

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Litterick View Post
    Perhaps it is because they are recordings rather than songs. The standards were originally songs from the musicals and movies that were published as sheet music, to be played at home and by bands in dance halls. Some of the many songs published became standards because many people played them and they became essential to the repertoire of the bands. They became common property, played by many and independent of their origins. For example, Stella by Starlight is much better known than The Uninvited, the film from which it came. The song has its own existence.

    In 1957 (I think) record sales overtook sheet music sales. A record is not a song, but a recording of a particular group of musicians playing a song. It remains the original. Over 2,200 covers of Yesterday have been made, but the original will always be the recording on the Beatles' Help album. A cover version can surpass its original in status (as the Hendrix version of All Along The Watchtower did to Dylan's original) but recordings do not become generic, as songs do. The best-known recording, the original or the dominant cover, remains paramount. Another Brick in the Wall belongs to Pink Floyd and Creep to Radiohead.

    Whenever one hears a cover of such a song, the original is in one's mind. A song can become a standard, but a recording cannot.
    I basically agree, but one could also consider that among the standards, there was usually one recording, at some point in time, that became more popular and more wide spread than any other version and therefore by many has been considered the "original". For example Jerome Kern's "Smoke gets in your eyes". The song was first published in 1933, but most people remember the Platters #1 hit in 1959. That won't stop me from playing it my way (nothing like the Platters).

    But there are oceans of differences between a regular Jazz standard and for example Pink Floyd's "The Wall", for example melodic and harmonic movement. As a general guideline; Music that totally depends on bass & drums and/or lyrics seldom qualify as a standard. Virtually every standard in the book can be played instrumental on solo piano or solo guitar.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drumbler View Post
    Would like to hear a jazz version of "Cold Gin" by Kiss.
    The bridge is pretty cool, totally jazzable...(we just have to cut the verse and the chorus )

  16. #15

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    Back in 1995 Herbie Hancock did an album called "New Standard". Here's the Nirvana song from the set.

    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  17. #16
    Brad Mehldau's version of Bittersweet Symphony is gorgeous - I'd love to hear more versions of that.

  18. #17
    I don't know, I've been to jams where they've played Wayne Shorter standards that were written as recently as 1966...

  19. #18

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    Sure, there's a lot of nice Jazz from the 60s and on. In the early 60s, Jazz is still a pop genre and names like Herbie Hancock, Horace Silver, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter and John Coltrain come to mind. It's the important era of Modal Jazz that took off in the late 50s and dominated the 60s scene. "So What", "Cantaloupe Island", "Footprints", "Song for my Father", "Giant Steps" are examples of standards from this era. The 1959 tune "Sister Sadie" by Horace Silver is an example of late bop, that also became a standard.

    But the most widespread Jazz from the 60's is probably the Bossa Nova, albeit not part of the (north) American song book. When Modal Jazz became too hard to digest for average Joe, Bossa Nova was the new beat.

    For a song to become a standard, it obviously has to have strong musical qualities and be open for interpretation. A standard typically has inspiring changes (Jazz harmony) and a theme with identity and integrity. Lyrics in general have no priority. Drums and bass belongs to the rhythm section and is never the main attraction, not even in the Bossa Nova standards. (Miles "So What" may be seen as an exception..). Now, compare this to contemporary pop, for example Hip Hop where everything is about beat and lyrics. When there's a theme, it's often sampled from the good old days.

  20. #19

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    In the 70s and 80s ABBA wrote pop songs with strong melodies that inspires to re-harmonization:

    Here interpreted by Trombonist Nils Landgren and his Funk Unit:


  21. #20

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    I’m on board with the comments above by Litterick and Jcat. To expand upon their points I would say that to some extent, certainly not all cases but quite commonly in pop and rock recordings, “the song” that listeners love is specifically tied to the particular “arrangement and instrumentation” of its well known recording. At some point in popular music, for some well know and mega selling artists, the producer of a recording became as or more important and influential on the “song” than the quality of music and poetry/prose of the tune. A really great song can convey itself with just the melody and strummed or arpeggiation of the basic harmony as opposed to for example Steely Dan’s Black Cow; yeah, the record sounds great, but strip away everything specific to Steely Dan about that recording and it’s just not that a great song, though it is a great sounding record. I don’t want to pick on anyone who has had commercial success with what they do but I can’t imagine that in fifty years there’s going to be people performing songs that sold millions of records for Madonna. I doubt she cares but I don’t believe her huge success was built on “great songwriting “. On the other hand I’ll use Cindi Lauper’s Time After Time as an example of great songwriting. Her recording had modern studio production values applied to it, but you can hear anonymous buskers and bar entertainers play that song and it carries itself on the merits of its harmony, melody and lyric. Obviously by my references to 35 year old hits, I do not have my finger on the pulse of pop music but from what little current top 40 radio I cannot shield myself from, it seems all too frequent to me that it’s not about “the songs” anymore.
    Ignorance is agony.



  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drumbler View Post
    Would like to hear a jazz version of "Cold Gin" by Kiss.
    Kiss has plenty of tunes that swing, too.

    I think the big reason is that it's not easy to turn a lot of current pop music into a vehicle for actual jazz improvisation.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
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    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  23. #22

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    We do Back In Black with my band. I let the sax do all the improv work.

    Many others, like Comanche. The sax player made a set list something like Nicas Dream followed by You Never Can Tell by Chuck Berry. It cracked me up. We're just big Pulp Fiction fans!

    But also, it's great for people to do originals rather than standards. Modern or old, it should be like 5% of the repertoire anyway IMO. Unless of course it's functions, then people just want to hear same old.

  24. #23

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  25. #24

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    I like Norah Jones and I quite often listen to her music. Her version of Hoagy Carmichaels' standard "The Nearness of You" is arguably the best ever. But her catalogue is 90% country.

    I searched Youtube for Jazz versions of hits from the last decade by some major contemporary pop acts that I think highly of in terms of musical craftsmanship. Unfortunately I didn't find anything worth posting here. But I found something else; a huge number of videos proclaiming to be Jazz versions of those hits. These videos have a few things in common, e.g instruments popular in the Jazz era (sax, trumpet, archtop etc) and/or are instrumental versions without vocals. Or there may be a vocalist in a 1930's outfit etc.

    It becomes obvious that the genre Jazz is hi-jacked by people that never listened to Jazz in their entire life, but think they are now jazzers because they do an instrumental version or have a double bass and/or a horn in the band or maybe just the fact that they play real instruments instead of the regular DAW loop sing-back. It's a well known phenomenon observed at some of the "Jazz festivals" as well. Acts that were never Jazz, but suddenly appear "un-plugged" etc. It's almost like "Jazz" could be anything provided the act is not on the billboard top 100...

    People are welcome to play and listen to whatever they like and they may call it what they like. It's great that people play real instruments and get inspiration from pop-music. All good.

    Fortunately, a jazz musician knows his standards and therefore he knows what is jazz and what is not. It's a no-brainer, really.

  26. #25

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    This is a great tune, Dave Stryker manages to give it a jazz treatment.


  27. #26

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    It takes an outstanding melody to create a standard and a nice, interesting series of chords.

    Sunny, The Moon's a Harsh Mistress and Masquerade are great examples. Adele cranked out a few, too.

    The majority of songs don't contain those two ingredients. Most in the last few decades don't even try. New sounds and effects tend to dominate.

    While it seems that we have stalled in creating classics, I'm not sure that our productivity really has. The 20th century seems more prolific than the 19th. Maybe that's due to urbanization, musicals, and TV.
    MG

  28. #27

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  29. #28

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    I think you can play whatever songs you like to play.

    The problem is having the interest in contemporary pop music and also the skill set to hear the possibilities in the music for a jazz player. Not so many people have both, but it’s becoming more common.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    This is a great tune, Dave Stryker manages to give it a jazz treatment.

    My version of this tune will be on my forthcoming album. It’s a good’un.

    There are also versions by Alan Pasqua, Ben Monder and Cassandra Wilson.

  31. #30

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    Wichita works because it's a great strong melody, not over repetitive in pitch (but repetitive enough in harmonic rhythm to be catchy) and it's got great chords...many a jazz player has taken this one on...I love Bobby Broom's take.

    That's just not how a whole lot of today's music is. It often requires a bit of a Brad Mehldau overhaul, which is a pretty defined skill...its tough! I'd much rather start with a tune thats.. already interesting.
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    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  32. #31

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    A lot of today's hits are not only hard to make a jazz version of, but any version with real instruments. As a Rock band teacher I get requests from kids to arrange those songs for them to play, and everyone, including me, is amused how dull and shitty it can sound with regular instruments. It's all in synthetic sounds today, you can make a candy out of turd. But if you strip it off the production qualities... it becomes kinda obvious.

  33. #32

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    Better off doing video game muaic

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Better off doing video game muaic
    That's always fun!

  35. #34

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    Here you go,
    Novas Ideias (Bebel Gilberto & Seu Jorge) written in 2014.
    Great song, perfect for a Jazz combo, nice options for trading fours.
    Give it some air-time and it's a hit.

    Pay attention to the scat improvisation, serious "behind the beat" (lagging just like the "white guys", you know )


    Last edited by JCat; 05-24-2019 at 08:41 AM.

  36. #35

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    I like playing some non-jazz tunes in more jazzy (or not even very jazzy) style that has some sort of 'root' feel in them like some of Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, Ranyd Newman's songs...

    also Gregory Porter's songs like 'Be Good', 'Real Good Man', 'Brown Grass', 'Water Under Bridges' can easily become standards... they sound cool in instrumental jazz setup... and solo too.

    But still they do not become standards.. becasue it is more social thing about being standard - not only music.

  37. #36

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    Yes. Jazz in the popular imagination is mid-century music: swing, bebop and cool. The songs they played back then were 'timeless,' even though they had been written not many years earlier. Modern songs are not the same; they are of our time.

  38. #37

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    I think another factor may be that most of the standards have a structure (AABA or ABAC or 12bars etc) that's formulaic, but which suits the 'just turn up and play' protocol of a lot of jazz performances.

    A lot modern tunes have non-standard, even unique, structures (i.e almost any possible combination and sequence of intro, verse, chorus, riff section, bridge, interlude, solo, breakdown, outro, etc ) that means you can't just call them and expect everyone else on the stand to be familiar with what part is coming next. These tunes mostly have to be rehearsed, or have copious navigation notes on the charts so they're not suited to informal sessions where a lot of the standards get their currency by repetition.

    I know I don't mind turning up to any standards gig without any preparation, because I know the tunes are mostly going to follow a usual pattern.

    But if I have to do a gig of mainly pop songs each one needs to be learnt individually, often just for a single gig, which is a bit tiresome.

  39. #38

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    So just to be clear when we say new standards we actually mean songs from 40-50 years ago as opposed to 80 years ago?

    Radiohead are an obvious reference because it was quite cool to play their songs about 10 years ago. After Brad’s versions those songs got played so much they could almost be thought standards. I’ve done Knives Out on a couple of gigs... only problem being I couldn’t record a version of that song because everyone would say - ‘ooh Radiohead, how very Mehldau’

    And then there’s the bad plus, of course... I always like the (probably untrue) story that Ethan, being mister jazz and classical nerd didn’t actually know any of the ABBA, Sabbath or Tears for Fears songs Dave got him to play and thus his interpretations were completely fresh.... I hope the new guy has literally never listened to a pop record or the magic will be lost.

    But yeah not quite standards if one band does them.

    Anyway, you have the whole Dirty Loops/Adam Neely continuum. I’m constantly amazed what people will find to do with a Selena Gomez tune, but I have to say Knower’s reharm of Get Lucky is now how I hear the song.... still not a standard tho...

    It occurs to me that the musicians I’ve mentioned don’t include any guitar players... I wonder why?

  40. #39

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    Oh yeah McCaslin covers stuff like Boards of Canada, obscure Bowie, Deadmau5 and so on

  41. #40

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    Radiohead are an obvious reference because it was quite cool to play their songs about 10 years ago
    I do not know their music at all... I mean at all... I only know the name of the band becasue somebody told me: I like Radiohead you know... and I said: aha... and thought "strange name.."

  42. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by Litterick View Post
    Perhaps it is because they are recordings rather than songs. The standards were originally songs from the musicals and movies that were published as sheet music, to be played at home and by bands in dance halls. Some of the many songs published became standards because many people played them and they became essential to the repertoire of the bands. They became common property, played by many and independent of their origins. For example, Stella by Starlight is much better known than The Uninvited, the film from which it came. The song has its own existence.

    In 1957 (I think) record sales overtook sheet music sales. A record is not a song, but a recording of a particular group of musicians playing a song. It remains the original. Over 2,200 covers of Yesterday have been made, but the original will always be the recording on the Beatles' Help album. A cover version can surpass its original in status (as the Hendrix version of All Along The Watchtower did to Dylan's original) but recordings do not become generic, as songs do. The best-known recording, the original or the dominant cover, remains paramount. Another Brick in the Wall belongs to Pink Floyd and Creep to Radiohead.

    Whenever one hears a cover of such a song, the original is in one's mind. A song can become a standard, but a recording cannot.
    Well said. Note my main hobbies are jazz guitar and movies from the 1930 - 1960. It was a chicken \egg thing for me. I wanted to learn where the jazz standards I was Learning came from so I got into those "old" movies. Then I would hear a song in a movie I never heard before, get the sheet music and learn to play the song in a jazz style.

    Great example of Stella and The Uninvited. But yea, I'm a sucker for Gail Russell, who is Stella in the film.
    Last edited by jameslovestal; 05-27-2019 at 11:08 AM.

  43. #42

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    Thank you. I am very fond of films of the 60s and 70s, which I think comes out in my improvisation.

  44. #43

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    Hopefully, we will have more new tunes become standards. When I heard Barnes and Pizzarelli do this Beatles medley back in 1971, I was blown away. Back then they were still fairly new tunes and they did it right. I still use the reharmanizations of Here There and Anywhere.

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  45. #44
    There seems to be some common features of the early standards which were part of the great American song book. 32 bar AABA form, the use of ii V I progressions to modulate through different keys, preference for 4 note chord voicings over triads, bridges that often feature dominant back cycles etc.
    Because these were the popular music during the birth of jazz, these features became associated with jazz also. Somewhere along the line the American music industry abandoned this style in favor of simpler forms. Jazz didn't (by and large).
    There has been a growing disconnect between songwriting styles of jazz and poplar music. So I guess it's difficult now to preserve the innate character of a modern popular tune when played in the jazz style.

  46. #45

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    Jazz composition has also moved away from ii v I

  47. #46
    So modern straight ahead players do not use ii V I's in their compositions? I haven't listen to a lot of modern compositions but somehow I doubt that.

  48. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    So modern straight ahead players do not use ii V I's in their compositions? I haven't listen to a lot of modern compositions but somehow I doubt that.
    Well it’s hard to make a general rule cos jazz is a big tent, but it seems to me that ii v I standard type harmony is not so common in the contemporary mainstream (Potter, Rosenwinkel, etc etc) unless you are basing a tune on a standard.

    Tbh the role of ii v i s on standards harmony while not negligible was always a bit overstated by jazz edu and a certain era of jazz reharmonisation practice.

  49. #48

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    There would have to be an active jazz community for a song to become a standard nowadays, it's too scattered to have a consensus anymore.

  50. #49
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post

    Tbh the role of ii v i s on standards harmony while not negligible was always a bit overstated by jazz edu and a certain era of jazz reharmonisation practice.
    ii V I's are viewed as one of the distinguishing characteristics of jazz compositions vs other styles of music. While not everything is ii V I in jazz and ii V I's aren't completely non-existent in other music, I think it's a fair generalisation when one considers the whole body of tonal music. After all it's subdominant, dominant and tonic progression, ii is preferred over IV as the chords aren't triads.
    Is it overstated in education? I don't know. In the context of standards I can't imagine a progression more prevalent than ii V I's and vi ii V I's and iii vi ii V I's, which are all chained ii V I's really (even when vi's or ii's are made secondary dominants). I think it makes sense that jazz education is based on the standards as opposed to more modern evolutions of jazz. That said, I don't like practising progressions outside of tunes.

  51. #50
    All pure speculation on my part, but this is how I've always seen our...

    During the GASB era, many many more popular songs inherently had great changes. Around the sixties, changes for popular music became simpler to a large degree. I don't think it's a coincidence that jazzers started playing a higher percentage of their own tunes in later generations.

    Anyway, modern popular songs with really interesting changes which jazzers like) are much more the outliers. Ever some modern songs which have become more "standards" probably have to be more heavily re-harmonized.

    Many people who don't know what jazz is assume that the GASB songs ARE jazz. Fred Astair and co ARE jazz too many, and to be fair, those tunes have much more jazz-like changes compared to pop music of later generations.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 05-28-2019 at 02:36 PM.