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  1. #1

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    Introduction and Chapter One of my forthcoming book American Song Redux. I felt a need to cover material the great Alec Wilder omitted (for reasons explained in the introduction) from the seminal American Popular Song.

    The book, when it comes out, will be available for purchase. Enjoy this for now and please consider a purchase when it does come out:


    AMERICAN SONG REDUX
    JOEL FASS © 2017 Exemplar (ASCAP)

    For Alec Wilder, one of the greatest writers I’ve played or read
    Foreword:
    This book is intended to be an update. It is one musician and music student’s survey of some of American song. In his seminal American Popular Song, which by design, ended at 1950, Alec Wilder, I feel, and whatever his reasons, omitted the work of certain important pre-1950 composers, and---more troubling to me---chose to withhold commentary and analysis on the new wave of popular songwriters working after 1950. (In fairness, even a survey as comprehensive and diligently written as Mr. Wilder’s could not cover every composer or song). Still, one wonders at the man’s reasons. (A possible key to his omission of post-1950 pop songwriters is contained in a statement, recorded in print: Asked by a friend ‘Why did (American Popular Song) end in 1950?’ Wilder rejoined ‘That’s when the amateurs took over’—a statement I frankly roll my eyes at. Though he admired in his book the work of ‘great craftsmen’ writing songs appealing to him post-1950, Wilder changed his tune when speaking of those new-fangled pop music writers that didn’t. At those he simply hurled unkind remarks, apparently deeming their work unworthy of serious consideration, in and out of his book. To wit: Wilder inveighed to the NY Times in 1972 that ‘My particular complaint about rock is its continuing amateur point of view. For while amateurs can produce miracles, they can only do it once’. I find statements like these possibly elitist and definitely uninformed. Did he vet the work of every post-1950 new school songwriter, make a rash sweeping proclamation, speak out of professional jealousy or fear of his ilk of composers were losing the edge and the work?
    I’m afraid I must let the question dangle. I am a musician, not a psychoanalyst---and while a huge fan of Wilder the music and prose writer, certainly cannot claim to have gotten a close look inside the man’s cranium. I am, though, a student of the entire American song tradition (if only because a musician such as myself gigging largely in nightclubs would have little choice but to be steeped in it, or risk unemployment). In these pages I simply wish to first discuss popular musical forms, and then chronicle and analyze the work of some worthy professional songwriters. I’ve encountered such people in my work and study and feel it would be good to add to the literature on American song a discussion of their work. This music was created a few years before and some years after Wilder’s days ended in 1980. I will discuss, comment on and analyze that wide-ranging music
















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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2
    I cannot stress enough that in no way is my book intended as a challenge or corrective. Mr. Wilder is a hero who did musicians, music students and music lovers a great service in researching and writing his book.


    What is ‘American song’ anyway? By definition, it would have to be the music of immigrants to America and their descendants---or the music of Native Americans. (Why music of the ‘other’ Americas---South and Central and their islands never seemed to be included in that rubric, though it is played often enough here to be so considered is a valid question (for another writer, I’m afraid: My hands are full with the topic at hand).
    Americans who migrated here have been documented by many historians to have done so for freedom from religious or other persecution, desire for better economic opportunity for oneself or one’s loved ones, raw greed or just plain wanderlust. One thing, however, is certain: The Land of Opportunity is a land of immigrants.
    (There are theories galore in various science journals about Native Americans having long ago migrated here via land strips from faraway lands. I am neither scientist, historian nor sociologist, but I will venture one---and only one---strong opinion on our society’s back story and its harmful effects: however they arrived here, or assuming they were always here, the genocide visited on Native Americans by certain self-serving European usurpers was one of the truly shameful and dark moments in our history).
    Once here, these newly minted nationals needed music (who doesn’t?), and those trained and gifted in the art created some, both strongly ethnic and uniquely American. Naturally, that music reflected those ethnic roots. What we now call ‘American music’ is really a diverse collection of musics: Here are three examples---culled from many more:
    The enslaved Africans brought their traditions---passing the lore of their ancestors down through storytelling with musical accompaniment. African devices such as ‘call and response’ proliferated in the Black Church as well as their secular music. The slave owners, we now agree, took away the slaves’ hand drums, fearing their communication (and possible revolt) via a complex and sophisticated polyrhythmic percussion language that could be heard (and answered) across villages.
    Meanwhile, in the Caribbean, South and Central Americas and their islands, the African slaves (and settlers) were allowed to keep their drums, thus holding onto and using those polyrhythms. The African slaves and their descendants in America were given European instruments by Master (when they were given any instruments). The result: fifes, violins, snare drums, pianos, various brass configurations and other European instruments were used to play, and moreover, forge a song tradition with strong African roots (though more ‘mono-rhythmic’), but also uniquely of America---if only because it was born in America. Slaves turning up in Cuba brought with them Santeria and Yoruba rituals including spiritual chants. As late as the 1940s, the great hand drummer-composer Chano Pozo was using these chants to create with Dizzy Gillespie durable Afro-Cuban/jazz pieces like Tin Tin Deo and Manteca. Gillespie, himself an important creator and composer, nonetheless has been wrongly credited in some quarters with exclusively authoring these two chant-derived pieces. What he did do was write the bridges (middle sections where the melodies and harmonies go ‘somewhere else’ other than the opening and closing statements), and beautifully at that.
    Eastern and Western Europeans who came escaping post-Kristallnacht Germany or elsewhere darkness took root in Europe settled in metropolises such as New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. The composers among them possessed, in most cases, conservatory training in composition as well as impressive resumes in film and theater composing (and stand-alone songwriting). They, mostly but not all Jews---unlike their darker-skinned brothers (and sisters of all hues), were able to secure excellent-paying work in Hollywood. Composers such as Lionel Newman, Nicholas Rosza, Kurt Weill and Vernon Duke (not to mention first-generation Americans Richard Rodgers, Bernard Hermann, lyricist Dorothy Fields and George Gershwin) did quite well professionally. Irving Berlin (nee Israel Baline) was born in Russia (1907) and came here as a young boy.
    Then, there were the Japanese---including American-born Japanese---held in internment camps during WW II. Many were loyal, hard-working citizens caught, as all Americans, their allies and the ‘other side’ in the vise-like grip of war. They, perforce, were met with debasing racial slurs and life-altering isolation. What, in view of those experiences and the feelings they doubtless triggered, was their contribution to the majority culture’s music? The subject will be probed here.
    So why an ‘update’?
    In Wilder’s book, that crusty parser of others’ work (he’d be way harder on himself years later in Letters I Never Mailed) admired Richard Rodgers, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter and other composers, while being a bit peevish about George Gershwin’s ‘repeated notes’ or averring re Kurt Weill that ‘I don’t happen to be a Kurt Weill fan,….and I don’t weep at the downbeat of September Song’---and why not? Wilder was himself a no-nonsense composer with (in jazz parlance) ‘ears like Dumbo’, not to mention creator of the durable standards While We’re Young and I’ll Be Around (the latter to which he also contributed a lovely, plain-spoken lyric). He thoroughly researched American popular song from the 1890s through 1950 for the book, and in his painstaking analysis of the songs had every right to report what he found. Informed opinions are the only kind that ought to be given weight.

  4. #3
    It's amusing that Wilder, having rapped Gershwin's knuckles for using too many repeated notes, gives Rodgers-Hammerstein a pass regarding the five times repeated note at the climax of You’ll Never Walk Alone (Carousel).
    I say those Gershwin notes were ‘so nice he wrote them twice’.

    Perhaps more troubling, the work of Billy Strayhorn, astonishingly, was not commented on at all. Strayhorn is merely name-checked in ‘drive-by’ fashion (p. 412) as Ellington’s ‘chief orchestrator’. So much for a body of work almost unmatched in American song even some 52 years after this master’s death. Perhaps this was part and parcel of a Wilder’s fear of being accused of critiquing ‘out of station’? Mr. Strayhorn was known largely as a jazz composer. Perhaps Mr. Wilder was so fond of and respectful of jazz that he felt awkward commenting on Strayhorn’s great contributions? (This is all 20-20 hindsight and I implore the reader not to take these musings as more than musings): I also find it quite hard to believe that as savvy and brilliant a man as Wilder would not know Strayhorn’s work, despite Strayhorn willingly staying in Mr. Ellington’s shadow (for reasons not pertinent to these studies. Every non-Classical instrumentalist, vocalist, and certainly composer/arranger in the know was aware of Billy Strayhorn’s compositions, the ones other than those in the Ellington orbit. Strange doings.
    Now, to Strayhorn’s employer-composing partner, Duke Ellington: Wilder, while certainly bowing to the Maestro’s unique and important compositional accomplishments and providing worthwhile commentary on the melodies and lyrics of Ellington chestnuts such as the ballads Sophisticated Lady and I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good) and the swing number Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, wrote that for the most part Ellington’s pieces were not true ‘songs’, but rather written for instrumentalists in the band. (A good example is Concerto for Cootie---which, later ‘lyricised’ became Do Nothin’ ‘Til You Hear From Me, lyrics added after the fact).
    I can understand his view and do not disagree. Certainly it is best having composer and lyricist work together toward a common goal. However, there’s also not a thing wrong with Johnny Mercer’s work for Satin Doll (or the lyrics to I Didn’t Know About You, I’m Beginning to See the Light or the plaintive I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good*). All of these, it must be noted, were not instrumentals mined for commercial gold, but songs*. As pure songwriter, Ellington was arguably as good as any of his contemporaries. (I’d further wager that had Mr. Wilder been challenged by a peer he revered---such as his friend the late (composer-arranger) Bill Finegan---he just may have taken a second look at his conclusions). However, Wilder did do a more than credible job in his Ellington chapter, and actually was downright reverential toward the man (and the Ellington Orchestra), so there is no point in a further ‘taking apart’ Ellington’s songs, and I will not.

    *In fairness, Wilder points out that I Got it Bad is indeed a song, and proceeds, as was his wont, to again shrewdly analyze its melodic, harmonic and lyrical makeup.
    Last edited by joelf; 12-01-2019 at 09:40 AM.

  5. #4
    In the beating a dead horse department I’ll conclude my thoughts on the Wilder/Strayhorn matter thusly: In the first chapter of this work I will analyze the masterpieces Lush Life---music and lyrics---penned between ages 16 and 22---followed by a simpler, but equally effective piece, Johnny Come Lately.
    As stated, Wilder dismissed in print much of popular songwriting after ca 1950* as the work of ‘amateurs’---and on that point we must agree to disagree, and sharply: for one thing nothing is all good or all bad, as Wilder himself doubtless knew---airing in the book perceived flaws he found even in writers he admired. ‘Amateur’, according to my copy of The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means ‘a person who engages in a pursuit for pleasure and not as a profession’. Sorry, old man, but last I heard the portfolios accrued from royalty payments to Paul Anka, Carole King, Bob Dylan, the late Curtis Mayfield---et al---were darn healthy.
    * Again in fairness, Wilder did devote some of his chapter The Great Craftsmen to songwriters he deemed professional working into the 1960s. No excuses, though there was plenty more to acknowledge post-1950.
    So I will survey Blues, Rock, R & B, Folk -Rock, Folk, Country (names bestowed, FWIW, not by musicians, but writers) right along with Broadway, Native American, Black Church, Latin-based, jazz. I will go back to Billy Strayhorn and a few observations of composers covered in American Popular Song. But my main thrust is to discuss analytically (and, I hope, entertainingly) about American music of merit music composed and performed from 1950 on.
    For another thing, it simply astounded me that Wilder—that erudite commentator on theater songs---declined to print a single word about Stephen Sondheim! Sondheim’s first staged musical, Saturday Night, opened in 1954. His collaboration, in 1957, as lyricist with composer-lyricist Leonard Bernstein (and key contributors choreographer Jerome Robbins and book writer Arthur Laurents) was innovative and influential. Then there was the collaboration with Jule Styne on 1959’s Gypsy. By the time American Popular Song saw publication (1972) Sondheim was a force and game-changer too important to ignore.
    Since ‘flying solo’, Sondheim’s work has not only been distinguished---displaying the courage to explore such dark material as that of Sweeney Todd and win much applause, not to mention several awards in the bargain--but has breathed new life into the musical theater, much as Rodgers-Hammerstein did some decades earlier.
    (I also highly recommend his Finishing the Hat to anyone interested in what makes songs ‘tick’. Largely a review with commentary of his own work, it truly ‘covers the waterfront’ of theater and songwriting generally, focusing primarily on lyrics. Sondheim is an expert, if highly opinionated, commentator on all aspects of theater writing, but especially on lyrics. He is almost brutally critical in his appraisals of other lyricists’ work---but none more than Stephen Sondheim. A thought-provoking and quite useful read.)
    The book will survey much of that post-1950 music generally (and wrongly) lumped together amorphously as ‘pop’: Muddy Waters, Mississippi John Hurt, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway Bob Dylan, Carole King, Joni Mitchell et. al.---and begin by discussing earlier songs those songs may have ‘sprung’ from. (What creator of anything does not ‘stand on the shoulders’ of his/her forbears?) It will also survey post and pre-1950 theater, film and television songs. Finally, it is intended as a study text for serious professionals and pros-in-the-making---but also for the enjoyment and enrichment of anyone with a love of anybody’s music.
    Learn and enjoy!


  6. #5
    CHAPTER 1
    Part 1: Correcting the Record
    Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life, Johnny Come Lately
    I consider Lush Life to be one of the heavyweight champion ‘saloon songs’ and just plain songs---made all the more remarkable by the fact that Lush Life (and Something To Live For) were composed (melody and lyrics) by Strayhorn between the ages of 16 and 22! It is almost unfathomable to me how a man so young could give the world of singers and their listeners a lyric so dark and world-weary. (Except for the fact that Strayhorn was almost certainly a genius----or at the very least, a young man of extraordinary sensitivity and insight).
    Lush Life
    Verse: Lush Life is one of those songs wherein it is almost unimaginable (and one is tempted to say that it ought to be illegal!) that it could be performed or recorded sans verse. Even the best-known instrumental version (John Coltrane’s---first recorded for Prestige Records earlier than the better-known version featuring vocalist Johnny Hartman) gives due respect to the verse. (According to legend circulated by, among others, erstwhile NY radio personality/popular music historian Jonathan Schwartz, Frank Sinatra had Nelson Riddle write a chart on the song, and at the recording session got as far as the verse, intoning (lamenting?) in awe ‘I’d better study this one some more. Let’s put it aside---like maybe for a year’…).
    Practically from the beginning of that verse, Strayhorn sets a chromatic harmonic framework in motion that will carry the day throughout the song’s entirety. It does alternate with diatonic and whole-step chords, but it is the chromatic movement that ‘glues it together’---and makes it unique:
    The first line (in the original key of Db Major) has, under the lyric
    I used to visit all those very gay places,
    Those come-what-may places…’
    chords moving in Major 2nds:
    (two beats each) Db6 Cb7/ Db Maj 7 Cb7 /Db Maj 7.
    The next line:
    (Where one re-) laxes on the axis of the wheel of life
    To get the feel of life
    From jazz and cocktails
    makes a slight ‘left turn’: it starts with a step-wise scalar movement (one beat each): Db Maj 7/ Eb Min 7/ (one beat) F min7 to what sounds like a foray into a new key (E Major) (1beat) B7b9/ (two beats) E Maj7/---but could be considered a slight deviation from the mother key via a b III chord (a chord built on a bass note gotten by flatting the 3rd degree—‘mi’ of the major scale), preceded by its own V chord (a chord built on the 5th degree—sol—of the scale) which then resolves smoothly back to the ‘mother’ Db: (two beats) D7/ Db Maj7---(some accompanists prefer Eb Min 11 here instead)/ Ab9+5/ Db Maj9/ Ab 7b9.
    The next line
    (The) girls I knew had sad and sullen grey faces
    With disquente’ traces
    That used to be there—you could see where they’d been
    Washed away---from too many through the day
    Twelve o’ clock-tales
    moves in identical fashion to the previous strain: (two beat each) Db6 Cb7/ Db Maj7/ Cb 7/ Db Maj 7/ Cb7/ then slyly shifts to the iii minor (again not a modulation, just the next harmonic ‘whistle stop’) on the word ‘then’. It’s a tried-and-true formula---like it or not---to frame ‘sad’ parts of a lyric in minor mode. Strayhorn seems to have been well aware of this. (Oh, for a glimpse inside the man’s head for insight into what he was thinking in putting together such creatively reaching, yet logical harmonic architecture!) Note, too, the practice by singers of seeming to sense a natural crescendo (and sometimes slowing the already rubato time even more), to mirror the emotional content. And note further the melodic choices (two beats each) C C C D D/ F F F Ab Ab/ (one beat each) F Min F Min6 G Min7 b5 C7b9 outlining the chords.

  7. #6
    Then) you came along with your siren song
    To tempt me to madness
    I thought for a while that your poignant smile was
    Tinged with a sadness
    Of a great love for
    (Now Strayhorn’s chromatic ‘glue’ is put into play):
    (one beat each) F min E diminished/ Eb Min7 Ab 7
    Another brilliantly subtle melodic/harmonic shift occurs on the words ‘tinged with a sadness’: the melody is altered to a chromatic (quarter note triplets) C Db Bb/ C C Gb Ab/ (two beats each) Bb/ C F
    Then, a ‘pregnant’ (two beats each)Cb 7 #11/ Bb7 b9 on
    Me---yes I was
    (2 beats each) Eb Min7/ A7 +5 b5/ E Min 11/ Ab 7 +5 b5 on
    ‘Wrong---again I was wrong’ (ritard and finally fermata over ‘wrong’.
    Now, into the ‘tune proper’ the (chromatic) plot really thickens:
    The intervals in the refrain are a player or vocalist’s delight, not too taxing on the chops, (especially at ballad tempo---where detail has time to be heard) and hold to the tune’s chromatic harmonic underpinning. For example: at the end of bar one Strayhorn chooses Cb E natural A natural Ab (under ‘Life is Lonely again…’): a sharp nine (Cb) to a flat 9 on the next chord Ab 7 #9 D 9). Then, in bar two, he sneaks in a C natural but keeps the E natural from bar one (on ‘…only…’) this year.
    He next goes chromatically down to a Cb Bb (‘Last year’). The C natural is unexpected without being overly clever, but that Cb down to Bb, a transposition of bar one’s A natural Ab. Just ingenious manipulation of a simple motif with only a use of a half-step and subtle harmonic shift: D 9 Ab #9 (‘Only last…), finally resolving to a simple Db 6 (I myself like to keep that Ab bass on the Db (Db 6/Ab---going to a Db bass on the last note of the phrase: F natural …everything…, thereby heightening suspense just a bit more).
    Then, pure chromaticism in the chords over a step-wise F # G# resolving to a fifth---Cb: C 9 #11 Cb 13/ E Eb aug/ D 6 D 7 b9 (on ‘seemed so sure---now’)
    I find the contrary motion at Lush Life’s concluding two bars preferable (read: more musical) than Mr. Coltrane (great as he was) and company’s chromatic sharp 9 chords. I can understand and appreciate Coltrane’s fervid desire to put his stamp on nearly everything he touched, but in this case ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ applies. I find that even improvising on (especially fast-moving, though this is a ballad) chromatic chords, especially II Vs, to ‘crowd’ one’s melodic choices. Many players go on auto-pilot in these harmonic situations and play what they know (often patterns that merely ‘run the changes’) rather than what they hear (much easier to hear melodies---a la the great Lester Young---when given more room and time to maneuver with less (and simpler) chords to the bar. Detail and faster chord motion are better-suited for a song’s arrangement. In this instance I do feel Strayhorn’s changes ‘breathe’ more—thereby also giving singer and improviser room to maneuver.
    Does Lush Life suffer from ‘cleverness’ in lyric or harmonic design? I think not. It is a remarkable achievement, a first blush of unfolding genius. Every melodic, harmonic and rhythmic brick is in place---and strikes me as inevitable, not forced. I find it the very apex of unselfconscious virtuosity---not the merely decorative variety of virtuosity so over-used by lesser writers (and players). To quote that lovable rascal Max Bialystock of Mel Brooks’s The Producers:
    ‘If you got it, flaunt it, baby. If you got it, flaunt it!!
    In fact, the question could fairly be put: Could Strayhorn write a straight-up simple tune, with easygoing harmony and rhythm? My answer: Absolutely---unequivocally---yes!

  8. #7
    As he matured as composer, Strayhorn, in the manner of Samuel Beckett, became simpler and more direct. (I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall if and when he ever self-criticized aloud. I wonder if he’d have dismissed those early ballad masterpieces as ‘overly clever’---a la Sondheim).
    At any rate, many instrumentals in his ouevre (Raincheck, Lotus Blossom and our next song for study here, Johnny Come Lately) are quite easygoing and also quite simple and direct in harmonic, melodic and rhythmic construction---and of no less value than Lush Life or Something To Live For---as if he’d gotten relative complexity out of the way to finally ‘chill’, as young folks are wont to say. (Didn’t Beethoven, on his manuscripts, cross out passages madly, scribbling ‘simplify!’ in every available space? Great minds thinking alike?).

    Johnny Come Lately
    is a medium tempo swing instrumental in G Minor of routine AABA form, modulating to the flat six key of Eb Major on the bridge, then repeating the first A pretty much verbatim. The harmonic plan is a simple i ii v7 for the first A, repeated for the second with a very typical second ending, which modulates to Eb through a simple ii v7 (F Minor 7 Bb7---one bar apiece)---then ‘home, James’ with an exact repeat of A1. (Fine merely ends on the G Minor tonic). The most interesting melodic event occurs for me in the bridge: a Gb in the third bar, a sort of ‘blue note’ (trumpeter-composer-arranger-jokester Tim Ouimette called these ‘Polish red notes’) in an Eb Major 7 chord---where one expects G natural. I also rather like the chord changes on the bridge’s final two bars, finding them both smooth and original. ( in usual practice F7 #11 2 bars to A Minor, 1 bar D7 with melody notes acting as #9 and 3rd---interestingly, Strayhorn ends on that F# going to the low D, not a high D that a lesser writer might (which would create a bland unison with the bass), showing his sophisticated grasp of harmonic architecture, even on a comparatively simple tune.
    Speaking of Strayhorn’s interval choices, they are bold and pull the ear in: a minor 7th to a minor 6th down in bars one and two, then a minor 7th again at the pickup to bar five, to a quite striking seeming diminished triad. And he ends the A sections with F natural as next-to-last note---the # 9. Pretty spicy for 1941!
    Finally, Johnny Come Lately goes down easy for listener and player alike and does what it does effectively for the type of tune it is. That’s peachy keen by me.

  9. #8
    Sorry about the multi-posts. I'm permitted only 1,000 words/post...

  10. #9
    Also in the book, deeper in I keep the forward's promise and analyze Stevie Wonder's Living for the City, You and I, Too High; Joni Mitchell's Chelsea Morning and Both Sides Now; some Billy Joel----and fine individual songs like When the Wind was Green.

    I want to get to important contributors like slave songs; the Black Church (and White Church); Native American and Caribbean musics; Latino musics----I also feel that anything PERFORMED here regularly is American music. After all, we're a nation of immigrants. There's no way to ignore the Beatles or Reggae/Ska/Calypso, etc.

    Tall order? Yeah, but I dig challenges...

  11. #10
    Does no one have a comment? I'm putting years into this book...

  12. #11

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    Interesting read, so far, Joel. You've obviously put a lot of thought into this. I think the lack of response may just be that many of us just stop here for a casual drive-by of topics of interest, and aren't prepared for the serious sit-down your material requires.

    Among other things, I'd never heard before that Diz only wrote the bridges to Tin Tin Deo and Manteca. Is that widely known? I read the Wilder book quite a few years ago. It was not an easy read. That style of talking through the music note by note becomes exhausting, and after a while I found myself skipping more and more of those passages. I remember that a lot of his likes and dislikes seemed quirky and personal. You seem to be loosely following his model, but broadening the scope. That's commendable, but frankly, I hope you pull it off better than Wilder did. I know the book is considered some sort of classic, but frankly, I don't really recommend it.

    I can't dig up the book right now, but I seem to recall that most of the music he covered was written for stage and movie musicals, and not records, which might explain some of his choices. That's limiting, but it also gives the music some common ground. You have a more difficult task trying to tie together music from so many sources. I hope you have a lot of success with this project. Thanks for posting the excerpt.

  13. #12

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    Joel is indeed right about Dizzy and the bridges, though I think he always credited Chano Pozo and Gil Fuller. Now, iirc, the bridge that DG wrote for Manteca is 16 bars, instead of the usual.

    In the early 1960s, bluesman Bobby Parker adapted the Manteca theme for a blues "Watch Your Step," which became part of the Beatles early repertoire and, according to John Lennon, the inspiration for both "Day Tripper" and "I Feel Fine."

    Also worth observing, "Manteca" like Mario Bauzo's "Tango" [edit: should be "Tanga"] was common slang in the era for marijuana.

    Joel's project looks interesting.
    Last edited by Stuart Elliott; 12-03-2019 at 11:36 AM.

  14. #13

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    Thank you!
    I ejoyed reading it and would like to read more.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by joelf View Post
    Does no one have a comment? I'm putting years into this book...
    I think that very many of us don't even want to deal with or read any very long posts. I've been on the forum long enough to know that hardly anybody has anything valuable enough to waste very much time reading.

    Many of us have a life and like to cover as much ground on the forum as quickly as possible and get on to more important stuff. I don't come here to read folk's long boring essay like posts. Some folks got way too much stuff to say to invest giving any attention to them.

    As a rule, if it's more than 2 paragraphs, I pass it by. I'm not here for heavy reading.

    Basically, don't take it personal if you don't seem to get the attention you expect, I'm sure it's an awesome read.
    Last edited by cosmic gumbo; 12-03-2019 at 09:23 PM.

  16. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    I think that very many of us don't even want to deal with or read any very long posts. I've been on the forum long enough to know that hardly anybody has anything valuable enough to waste very much time reading.

    Many of us have a life and like to cover as much ground on the forum as quickly as possible and get on to more important stuff. I don't come here to read folk's long boring essay like posts. Some folks got way too much stuff to say to invest giving any attention to them.

    As a rule, if it's more than 2 paragraphs, I pass it by. I'm not here for heavy reading.
    You're entitled to your opinion and habits.

    I have a life, too---a full one---and it includes reading and writing. I tried to make the prose holding and even entertaining. I'm even including a glossary so non-musos can get past the technical terms.

    But I understand your point and certainly no hard feelings on this end, Cosmic...

  17. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Stuart Elliott View Post
    Joel is indeed right about Dizzy and the bridges, though I think he always credited Chano Pozo and Gil Fuller. Now, iirc, the bridge that DG wrote for Manteca is 16 bars, instead of the usual.

    In the early 1960s, bluesman Bobby Parker adapted the Manteca theme for a blues "Watch Your Step," which became part of the Beatles early repertoire and, according to John Lennon, the inspiration for both "Day Tripper" and "I Feel Fine."

    Also worth observing, "Manteca" like Mario Bauzo's "Tango" was common slang in the era for marijuana.

    Joel's project looks interesting.
    Thanks---didn't know some of this...

  18. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by unknownguitarplayer View Post
    Interesting read, so far, Joel. You've obviously put a lot of thought into this. I think the lack of response may just be that many of us just stop here for a casual drive-by of topics of interest, and aren't prepared for the serious sit-down your material requires.

    Among other things, I'd never heard before that Diz only wrote the bridges to Tin Tin Deo and Manteca. Is that widely known? I read the Wilder book quite a few years ago. It was not an easy read. That style of talking through the music note by note becomes exhausting, and after a while I found myself skipping more and more of those passages. I remember that a lot of his likes and dislikes seemed quirky and personal. You seem to be loosely following his model, but broadening the scope. That's commendable, but frankly, I hope you pull it off better than Wilder did. I know the book is considered some sort of classic, but frankly, I don't really recommend it.

    I can't dig up the book right now, but I seem to recall that most of the music he covered was written for stage and movie musicals, and not records, which might explain some of his choices. That's limiting, but it also gives the music some common ground. You have a more difficult task trying to tie together music from so many sources. I hope you have a lot of success with this project. Thanks for posting the excerpt.
    Re: Wilder's book (American Popular Song): it is seminal IMO. The thing I'm trying to address, as indicated in the forward, is Wilder's refusal to cover any pop writer (elitism? Fear of his generation and previous ones being supplanted by what he called 'amateurs?). He also ignored both Strayhorn and Sondheim. I got into both and analyzed their work, also Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Donny Hathaway, Johnny Cash, etc. I want to research Black (and White) church music more. Also will delve into blues, country---and ALL music played here from every corner of our polyglot society.

    Wish me luck!

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by joelf View Post
    Does no one have a comment? I'm putting years into this book...
    Honestly, I find it extremely difficult to read in the forum's format. The lines are so wide, the paragraphs so long, and the content broken up over so many posts that I can barely concentrate on what you're writing. My suggestion is that you do this via something like the google blogger platform. This is much easier to type into and edit, has good formatting tools and version control, and is much easier to read. You can then post links to chapters here (and elsewhere), with maybe a couple of sentences of summary, rather than entire chapters. I think I'd need to see somewhat more and have a better sense of the overall organization and scope of the book to offer any real commentary on the project as a whole. If you want specific comments on the writing or tone so far, I'd be willing to offer that over email or private messages.

    John

  20. #19

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    I'll definitely take a read, but my life doesn't slow down today til about 9pm
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "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

  21. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by John A. View Post
    Honestly, I find it extremely difficult to read in the forum's format. The lines are so wide, the paragraphs so long, and the content broken up over so many posts that I can barely concentrate on what you're writing. My suggestion is that you do this via something like the google blogger platform. This is much easier to type into and edit, has good formatting tools and version control, and is much easier to read. You can then post links to chapters here (and elsewhere), with maybe a couple of sentences of summary, rather than entire chapters. I think I'd need to see somewhat more and have a better sense of the overall organization and scope of the book to offer any real commentary on the project as a whole. If you want specific comments on the writing or tone so far, I'd be willing to offer that over email or private messages.

    John
    All the posts weren't my idea. I was prevented from entering above a certain amount of characters per post.

    And, guys: look on my Mostly American Songbook Composers page on FB---it's all there in one post...

    Link, sirs: Log into Facebook | Facebook

  22. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by unknownguitarplayer View Post
    Interesting read, so far, Joel. You've obviously put a lot of thought into this. I think the lack of response may just be that many of us just stop here for a casual drive-by of topics of interest, and aren't prepared for the serious sit-down your material requires.

    Among other things, I'd never heard before that Diz only wrote the bridges to Tin Tin Deo and Manteca. Is that widely known? I read the Wilder book quite a few years ago. It was not an easy read. That style of talking through the music note by note becomes exhausting, and after a while I found myself skipping more and more of those passages. I remember that a lot of his likes and dislikes seemed quirky and personal. You seem to be loosely following his model, but broadening the scope. That's commendable, but frankly, I hope you pull it off better than Wilder did. I know the book is considered some sort of classic, but frankly, I don't really recommend it.

    I can't dig up the book right now, but I seem to recall that most of the music he covered was written for stage and movie musicals, and not records, which might explain some of his choices. That's limiting, but it also gives the music some common ground. You have a more difficult task trying to tie together music from so many sources. I hope you have a lot of success with this project. Thanks for posting the excerpt.
    I wish you'd hung in with Wilder's book. It's a seminal study---and WORTH going through the tunes note by note, the lyrics etc. to learn song construction as the masters do it. Maybe you play and don't write, don't mean to assume anything. But I do both, ergo my interest in what a top composer like Wilder has to say about his contemporaries.

    When, back in '95, I was studying with the great Bill Finegan, he asked me to read American Popular Song. I'd beaten him to the punch---already had a well-thumbed, well-marked copy. I'm modeling my book after his, except for the aforementioned...

  23. #22

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    This is a topic of great interest to me, as I'm a big fan of Wilder's book (though I prefer to take Wilder in small doses, and use him mostly for a reference). I also happen to write and edit for a living. I'm not a great writer by any stretch, but I do often have my writer goggles on, so I couldn't help but notice that it looks like you haven't run this by a proof-reader.

    It looks like you have a lot to say and a deep knowledge of the topic, and I hope your project does keep moving forward and that you get to work with an editor to whip it into shape.

    Things that jumped out at me include:

    (Why music of the ‘other’ Americas---South and Central and their islands never seemed to be included in that rubric, though it is played often enough here to be so considered is a valid question (for another writer, I’m afraid: My hands are full with the topic at hand).

    In this sentence, you have a parenthesis inside of a parenthesis, but are missing at least one concluding parenthesis, and you have an aside that starts with an em dash, ("---South and Central and their islands") but lacks a concluding em dash.

    Perhaps more troubling, the work of Billy Strayhorn, astonishingly, was not commented on at all. Strayhorn is merely name-checked in ‘drive-by’ fashion (p. 412) as Ellington’s ‘chief orchestrator’.

    Here you use the quotation marks around "drive by", and then cite a page number, as if "drive by" were a direct Wilder quote (and a couple of words later, you actually provide a direct Wilder quote, "chief orchestrator"). This kind of haphazard punctuation can confuse the reader.

    You second sentence in the foreword is a run-on, with a pile-up of clauses and asides:

    In his seminal American Popular Song, which by design, ended at 1950, Alec Wilder, I feel, and whatever his reasons, omitted the work of certain important pre-1950 composers, and---more troubling to me---chose to withhold commentary and analysis on the new wave of popular songwriters working after 1950.

    Here you have a construction I can't quite figure out--the words "that didn't" at the very end of the sentence seems to refer to "music that didn't appeal to Wilder", but the first half of the sentence uses the "writing songs appealing to him" construction, rather than the parallel "writing songs that did appeal to him".

    Though he admired in his book the work of ‘great craftsmen’ writing songs appealing to him post-1950, Wilder changed his tune when speaking of those new-fangled pop music writers that didn’t.

    And you are drawn to some of the now-cliche phrases like "roll my eyes" that and constructions that sound stale and sometimes antique to modern readers:

    To wit:
    I’m afraid I must ...
    a statement I frankly roll my eyes at.

    I know this sound hyper-critical, maybe pedantic, so apologies in advance. Writing isn't so different from jazz soloing...there's rhythm and flow, which you want to perfect, and cliches and clunkers that you want to avoid. At least with writing, you get all the do-overs you need.

  24. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by 44lombard View Post
    This is a topic of great interest to me, as I'm a big fan of Wilder's book (though I prefer to take Wilder in small doses, and use him mostly for a reference). I also happen to write and edit for a living. I'm not a great writer by any stretch, but I do often have my writer goggles on, so I couldn't help but notice that it looks like you haven't run this by a proof-reader.

    It looks like you have a lot to say and a deep knowledge of the topic, and I hope your project does keep moving forward and that you get to work with an editor to whip it into shape.

    Things that jumped out at me include:
    (Why music of the ‘other’ Americas---South and Central and their islands never seemed to be included in that rubric, though it is played often enough here to be so considered is a valid question (for another writer, I’m afraid: My hands are full with the topic at hand).

    In this sentence, you have a parenthesis inside of a parenthesis, but are missing at least one concluding parenthesis, and you have an aside that starts with an em dash, ("---South and Central and their islands") but lacks a concluding em dash.
    Perhaps more troubling, the work of Billy Strayhorn, astonishingly, was not commented on at all. Strayhorn is merely name-checked in ‘drive-by’ fashion (p. 412) as Ellington’s ‘chief orchestrator’.

    Here you use the quotation marks around "drive by", and then cite a page number, as if "drive by" were a direct Wilder quote (and a couple of words later, you actually provide a direct Wilder quote, "chief orchestrator"). This kind of haphazard punctuation can confuse the reader.

    You second sentence in the foreword is a run-on, with a pile-up of clauses and asides:
    In his seminal American Popular Song, which by design, ended at 1950, Alec Wilder, I feel, and whatever his reasons, omitted the work of certain important pre-1950 composers, and---more troubling to me---chose to withhold commentary and analysis on the new wave of popular songwriters working after 1950.

    Here you have a construction I can't quite figure out--the words "that didn't" at the very end of the sentence seems to refer to "music that didn't appeal to Wilder", but the first half of the sentence uses the "writing songs appealing to him" construction, rather than the parallel "writing songs that did appeal to him".
    Though he admired in his book the work of ‘great craftsmen’ writing songs appealing to him post-1950, Wilder changed his tune when speaking of those new-fangled pop music writers that didn’t.

    And you are drawn to some of the now-cliche phrases like "roll my eyes" that and constructions that sound stale and sometimes antique to modern readers:
    To wit:
    I’m afraid I must ...
    a statement I frankly roll my eyes at.

    I know this sound hyper-critical, maybe pedantic, so apologies in advance. Writing isn't so different from jazz soloing...there's rhythm and flow, which you want to perfect, and cliches and clunkers that you want to avoid. At least with writing, you get all the do-overs you need.
    So do you want the editing gig?

    Can't pay you , but if we pass a hot dog stand----(;

  25. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by 44lombard View Post
    This is a topic of great interest to me, as I'm a big fan of Wilder's book (though I prefer to take Wilder in small doses, and use him mostly for a reference). I also happen to write and edit for a living. I'm not a great writer by any stretch, but I do often have my writer goggles on, so I couldn't help but notice that it looks like you haven't run this by a proof-reader.

    It looks like you have a lot to say and a deep knowledge of the topic, and I hope your project does keep moving forward and that you get to work with an editor to whip it into shape.

    Things that jumped out at me include:
    (Why music of the ‘other’ Americas---South and Central and their islands never seemed to be included in that rubric, though it is played often enough here to be so considered is a valid question (for another writer, I’m afraid: My hands are full with the topic at hand).

    In this sentence, you have a parenthesis inside of a parenthesis, but are missing at least one concluding parenthesis, and you have an aside that starts with an em dash, ("---South and Central and their islands") but lacks a concluding em dash.
    Perhaps more troubling, the work of Billy Strayhorn, astonishingly, was not commented on at all. Strayhorn is merely name-checked in ‘drive-by’ fashion (p. 412) as Ellington’s ‘chief orchestrator’.

    Here you use the quotation marks around "drive by", and then cite a page number, as if "drive by" were a direct Wilder quote (and a couple of words later, you actually provide a direct Wilder quote, "chief orchestrator"). This kind of haphazard punctuation can confuse the reader.

    You second sentence in the foreword is a run-on, with a pile-up of clauses and asides:
    In his seminal American Popular Song, which by design, ended at 1950, Alec Wilder, I feel, and whatever his reasons, omitted the work of certain important pre-1950 composers, and---more troubling to me---chose to withhold commentary and analysis on the new wave of popular songwriters working after 1950.

    Here you have a construction I can't quite figure out--the words "that didn't" at the very end of the sentence seems to refer to "music that didn't appeal to Wilder", but the first half of the sentence uses the "writing songs appealing to him" construction, rather than the parallel "writing songs that did appeal to him".
    Though he admired in his book the work of ‘great craftsmen’ writing songs appealing to him post-1950, Wilder changed his tune when speaking of those new-fangled pop music writers that didn’t.

    And you are drawn to some of the now-cliche phrases like "roll my eyes" that and constructions that sound stale and sometimes antique to modern readers:
    To wit:
    I’m afraid I must ...
    a statement I frankly roll my eyes at.

    I know this sound hyper-critical, maybe pedantic, so apologies in advance. Writing isn't so different from jazz soloing...there's rhythm and flow, which you want to perfect, and cliches and clunkers that you want to avoid. At least with writing, you get all the do-overs you need.
    I was snarkily joking. This is a 1st draft, and I'm a natural writer (I HOPE) going by the seat of my pants and knowledge of the subject. Of course it needs editing----when the time comes. I'm not affiated w/any publishing house, nor did I get an advance. This is a labor of love and my 1st book (actually technically my 2nd: a book about the days of the Jazz Cultural Theater and the salad days of the '70s-'80s on the jazz scene is stuck in a computer w/a crashed hard drive b/c, schmuck-like, I didn't back it up). And Lewis Porter said I used too many parenthesis, so some of your criticism is on the mark.

    However, we must part company on your concern over 'stale cliches': I was trying to write using Wilder's tone and language, since this is an update of his book. I'm not sure you're being entirely fair b/c though I'm using formal language in a scholarly work I used plenty of humor also, if you read the whole draft (beyond this forward/1st chapter) and, unlike the great man himself, include a glossary of technical terms expressly for the non-musician reader.

    Thanks for your time and your comments. I will take them under advisement...