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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 the 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 end of the bebop era, jazz musicians have been expected to write their own 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.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 04-10-2021 at 10:13 AM.

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  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    ... 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...







  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    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
    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.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Litterick
    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
    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.


  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.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drumbler
    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.

  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.