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The Trombone ForumCreation and PerformancePerformance(Moderator: BGuttman) Why Do Jazz Artists Always Play The Same Old Stuff?
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Geezerhorn

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« on: Mar 04, 2017, 04:43AM »

In this thread about Delfeayo Marsalis a side discussion sprang up about what songs jazz performers seem to always gravitate towards. If the side discussion continues, no doubt someone will jump up waving their arms about the thread getting - insert words like - "hijacked", "digressed", etc. So I opened up a new thread on the "side discussion".

Okay, so why is it that jazz artists always have to dig up "old standards" from the 30's and 40's? Is it because said jazz artists are old and that's all they know? Is is because those tunes lend themselves better to jazz than anything else? Is jazz a dying art that only the older performers are managing to keep alive?

Why aren't contemporary jazz artists performing more current stuff? Is it because they feel that the more contemporary tunes lack melodic complexity? I could seriously argue that. In fact, I think it's quite the opposite. Melodies were never more simplistic than they were in the 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's. It was the 90's were pop song writers seemed to start to throw away the "rule book".

Try picking up your horn and playing along with "Top Pop On Prime" if you have an Amazon Echo! First of all, you will find that contemporary songs are often in the "guitar keys" - A, E, etc. Secondly, a lot of them seem to have a floating key center - for lack of a better description, where the actual melody is a little tough to pin down and it changes as the song progresses so much so that it seems like there are maybe two or more different songs combined into one. I've also found that they often tend to have speak/sing melodies - as in "Uptown Funk" or parts of "Poker Face". How do you play those parts well where they are still recognizable in a jazz format?

Also, there seems to be quite a lot of songs where the original melody is so defined that "jazzing it up" would alter the melody line so much it would not be recognizable any more. The song "You Don't Own Me" seems to fit into that category, as does the more contemporary "Dream On", by Aerosmith. I suppose a very talented artist could weave around the melody line convincingly, but the rest of us would sound awful trying to do so.

So is THAT why jazz artists resort the the same ole, same ole? Is it because it's easier than more contemporary tunes?

I think it's time for a rebirth or a reinvention of jazz! Both Bob Dylan and David Bowie managed to keep themselves fresh and current through the decades by reinventing themselves and leading the way for others to follow. Is this why jazz is dying - because it has become stagnant? Who will step up to reinvent jazz?

...Geezer
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vegasbound
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« Reply #1 on: Mar 04, 2017, 04:52AM »

A great demonstration of the modern pop idiom and its use of 4 chords

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lw3eYsnl31c
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Geezerhorn

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« Reply #2 on: Mar 04, 2017, 05:09AM »

A great demonstration of the modern pop idiom and its use of 4 chords

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lw3eYsnl31c

I agree! Love it! But I don't see a trad jazz instrumentalist in that little group. Where's the trombone-player? That is my point.

Is Paul The Trombonist the only trombone-player out there who is doing what I am discussing? My hat's off to him; taking the trombone to the YOUNG crowd! BRAVO!

...Geezer
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vito
« Reply #3 on: Mar 04, 2017, 05:37AM »

Is this why jazz is dying - because it has become stagnant? Who will step up to reinvent jazz?

Jazz is neither dying nor stagnant.

Come to NYC and check out:
The Stone (http://thestonenyc.com/)

I-Beam (http://ibeambrooklyn.com/)

and many other venues...

Trombone specific:
Jacob Garchik (http://jacobgarchik.com/)
Brian Drye (http://www.briandrye.com/)

Downtown Music Gallery (http://www.downtownmusicgallery.com/) (Old and new recordings become available every week; Really terrific free live shows just about every week)

Also online:
Taran's Free Jazz Hour (http://taransfreejazzhour.com/) (A good sampling of what's new and/or exciting; my starting point when looking for recordings for my library)

Jazz is alive and well and the subject nightly reinvention. In fact there is so very much going on that it's impossible to keep up.

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« Reply #4 on: Mar 04, 2017, 05:43AM »

Paul is not the only jazz musician who happens to play modern songs...some are good, others not so. Yes, standarts are a big thing. But not the only one. I don't get what is this rant about...
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« Reply #5 on: Mar 04, 2017, 05:49AM »

...

Try picking up your horn and playing along with "Top Pop On Prime" if you have an Amazon Echo! First of all, you will find that contemporary songs are often in the "guitar keys" - A, E, etc. Secondly, a lot of them seem to have a floating key center - for lack of a better description, where the actual melody is a little tough to pin down and it changes as the song progresses so much so that it seems like there are maybe two or more different songs combined into one. I've also found that they often tend to have speak/sing melodies - as in "Uptown Funk" or parts of "Poker Face". How do you play those parts well where they are still recognizable in a jazz format?

...

...Geezer

Relatedly, it seems jazz got going by having fun with staid melodies.  "Jazz them up", as it were.  To make fun of a melody, it seems it has to start out a little too serious about itself.  Today's pop melodies are typically sung so embellished already, it's hard to hear anything to do with them.  The bare melodies without the original artist's embellishments hardly sound like anything at all.  I overgeneralize, as there do seem to be some workable melodies out there, but only a little. 

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vegasbound
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« Reply #6 on: Mar 04, 2017, 05:55AM »

I agree! Love it! But I don't see a trad jazz instrumentalist in that little group. Where's the trombone-player? That is my point.

Is Paul The Trombonist the only trombone-player out there who is doing what I am discussing? My hat's off to him; taking the trombone to the YOUNG crowd! BRAVO!

...Geezer

The point of the video was your earlier comment about the chord structure of a modern pop song......  also to demonstrate that most if not all of the pop tunes written in the last 40 years are interchangable
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« Reply #7 on: Mar 04, 2017, 05:58AM »

Jazz is neither dying nor stagnant.

Come to NYC and check out:
The Stone (http://thestonenyc.com/)

I-Beam (http://ibeambrooklyn.com/)

and many other venues...

Trombone specific:
Jacob Garchik (http://jacobgarchik.com/)
Brian Drye (http://www.briandrye.com/)

Downtown Music Gallery (http://www.downtownmusicgallery.com/) (Old and new recordings become available every week; Really terrific free live shows just about every week)

Also online:
Taran's Free Jazz Hour (http://taransfreejazzhour.com/) (A good sampling of what's new and/or exciting; my starting point when looking for recordings for my library)

Jazz is alive and well and the subject nightly reinvention. In fact there is so very much going on that it's impossible to keep up.


Thanks for the enlightenment! New York City SHOULD be the font of all cultural change and enhancement on the East Coast of the USA! Even though perhaps it really all begins on the grass roots level, NYC is where it either makes it or not. I'll check them all out in due course but right now I'm due for a huge morning practice session.  :D

Relatedly, it seems jazz got going by having fun with staid melodies.  "Jazz them up", as it were.  To make fun of a melody, it seems it has to start out a little too serious about itself.  Today's pop melodies are typically sung so embellished already, it's hard to hear anything to do with them.  The bare melodies without the original artist's embellishments hardly sound like anything at all.  I overgeneralize, as there do seem to be some workable melodies out there, but only a little. 

You noticed that too! I always keep my ears open for something I can have fun with, but it has to be that certain something that will ALLOW me to have fun with! Not all of them do. In fact, as you mentioned, few of them do these days for various reasons, including the ones you mentioned. I've gone down a few blind alleys this winter trying to work more contemporary pop songs that I like but alas have discovered that they just don't lend themselves well to me.

...Geezer
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« Reply #8 on: Mar 04, 2017, 06:18AM »

Relatedly, it seems jazz got going by having fun with staid melodies.  "Jazz them up", as it were....

I think I first noticed that process when I was about 6 or 7...

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/GKvkuGhZI2Q" target="_blank">https://www.youtube.com/v/GKvkuGhZI2Q</a>


...and forever after that it all seemed terribly corny, every jazz singer is basically Jane Jetson, jazzing it up.

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« Reply #9 on: Mar 04, 2017, 06:22AM »

Paul is not the only jazz musician who happens to play modern songs...some are good, others not so. Yes, standarts are a big thing. But not the only one. I don't get what is this rant about...

I may have been a tad unkind in my rant. But it does bug me that it SEEMS when we all have a conversation about jazz - either on this Forum or that "conversation" being a local group at a local joint playing - it's the same old tunes.

...Geezer
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« Reply #10 on: Mar 04, 2017, 06:23AM »

I dont really know anything about this but im curious to see where this topic goes....

I would assume that a lot of the 'ol favorite tunes for jazz musicians are recycled frequently for the same reason we see orchestras performing mostly the same older rep.... those songs are good, thats why they have survived. Audiences enjoy familiarity. I think you can hear why Beethoven 5 has become almost a cliché, and no matter how many times you listen to the ring cycle, there is always something to enjoy.

Having said that, I have made the point of actually going out when I can to jazz clubs and Comercial band performances recently on a relatively regular basis. I dont get to play jazz anymore in my day to day life as a musician, and I love the different vibes at the gigs, it also is refreshing to hear trumpets and trombones not played in an orchestral setting. Most of the gigs I hear where the Jazzers are playing modern music, they really go all out with extended techniques and improv. Sometimes, to me it starts to not sound like music anymore, just weird effects over very complicated structures. Other Jazzers go nuts over it, but more often than not I find it difficult to listen to. I get a real kick if I hear something i recognise played really well! But thats rare for me.... surprised to read that you think there is not enough new stuff!
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Geezerhorn

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« Reply #11 on: Mar 04, 2017, 06:33AM »

I dont really know anything about this but im curious to see where this topic goes....

I would assume that a lot of the 'ol favorite tunes for jazz musicians are recycled frequently for the same reason we see orchestras performing mostly the same older rep.... those songs are good, thats why they have survived. Audiences enjoy familiarity. I think you can hear why Beethoven 5 has become almost a cliché, and no matter how many times you listen to the ring cycle, there is always something to enjoy.

Having said that, I have made the point of actually going out when I can to jazz clubs and Comercial band performances recently on a relatively regular basis. I dont get to play jazz anymore in my day to day life as a musician, and I love the different vibes at the gigs, it also is refreshing to hear trumpets and trombones not played in an orchestral setting. Most of the gigs I hear where the Jazzers are playing modern music, they really go all out with extended techniques and improv. Sometimes, to me it starts to not sound like music anymore, just weird effects over very complicated structures. Other Jazzers go nuts over it, but more often than not I find it difficult to listen to. I get a real kick if I hear something i recognise played really well! But thats rare for me.... surprised to read that you think there is not enough new stuff!

I don't get around much anymore.  :D

But if you think that mold is being broken - THANK YOU!

I agree it's nice to hear "old standbys" and it's also nice to hear new stuff. I guess the "old standbys" are the anchor. I just don't want to see that anchor sinking the boat.  :D

...Geezer
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« Reply #12 on: Mar 04, 2017, 06:34AM »

I think I first noticed that process when I was about 6 or 7...

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/GKvkuGhZI2Q" target="_blank">https://www.youtube.com/v/GKvkuGhZI2Q</a>


...and forever after that it all seemed terribly corny, every jazz singer is basically Jane Jetson, jazzing it up.



Lol. Not to mention the SNL vocal parodies of the 90's!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

...Geezer
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« Reply #13 on: Mar 04, 2017, 06:38AM »

The American Song Book are great tunes! What is there not to like?
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« Reply #14 on: Mar 04, 2017, 06:39AM »

I compose and arrange big band charts intended for high school/college "consumption".  I would say 95% of my work is new, original compositions in a variety of styles, but I really try to incorporate "modern" harmonic and rhythmic elements whenever appropriate.

In asking educators what they are programming for their jazz groups, I invariably get the same answers.  They are playing standards and arrangements from name bands' books, plus the occasional pop arrangement...but rarely any "new" music.

Jazz educators are funny people.  They will tell you they want jazz music to move forward and stay fresh, and in the next breath tell you all about the 50 or 60 year old charts their band is performing.  Lots of that music is fantastic and needs to be performed by young musicians, but it has to be balanced with the newer stuff, too.  
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« Reply #15 on: Mar 04, 2017, 06:43AM »

The American Song Book are great tunes! What is there not to like?

I had to Google it. Looks like the same old stuff to me, Dusty. Nice, but that's the point - not fresh & new. After all, wasn't jazz supposed to be the young upstart of music back in the day?

...Geezer
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Geezerhorn

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« Reply #16 on: Mar 04, 2017, 06:44AM »

I compose and arrange big band charts intended for high school/college "consumption".  I would say 95% of my work is new, original compositions in a variety of styles, but I really try to incorporate "modern" harmonic and rhythmic elements whenever appropriate.

In asking educators what they are programming for their jazz groups, I invariably get the same answers.  They are playing standards and arrangements from name bands' books, plus the occasional pop arrangement...but rarely any "new" music.

Jazz educators are funny people.  They will tell you they want jazz music to move forward and stay fresh, and in the next breath tell you all about the 50 or 60 year old charts their band is performing.  Lots of that music is fantastic and needs to be performed by young musicians, but it has to be balanced with the newer stuff, too.  

There you go! Nicely put. Great stuff when it gets a little kick in the butt, eh? That's what I'm talking about! Consider though that educators are in a tough spot. They may want to have kids play new stuff that the kids can relate to, but they are playing concerts for their PARENTS and GRAND PARENTS.

...Geezer
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« Reply #17 on: Mar 04, 2017, 06:45AM »

I had to Google it. Looks like the same old stuff to me, Dusty. Nice, but that's the point - not fresh & new. After all, wasn't jazz supposed to be the young upstart of music back in the day?

...Geezer

A good tune is a good tune and it was music to dance too!
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« Reply #18 on: Mar 04, 2017, 06:54AM »

A good tune is a good tune and it was music to dance too!

Dancing to it is a great point! Try dancing to the new composition! Sooooooo, why can't we have both? Why can't we have newer, more contemporary music "jazzed up" that we can dance to? I know there are pitfalls already mentioned. But it isn't impossible to come up with good, viable candidates from the pool of the most contemporary music. I'll go out on a limb and state that that's what the best bands of today are doing - and some old standards for the old people and the people who are old at heart. lol. There's a different take on that meme! Why do we never hear that sentiment expressed that way? Because no one wants to be thought of as "old at heart" - or do they? I don't. And please don't tell people - when I turn 85 (if I get to do that) - that I'm 85 years young. I hate that.

...Geezer
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« Reply #19 on: Mar 04, 2017, 07:06AM »

I had to Google it. Looks like the same old stuff to me, Dusty. Nice, but that's the point - not fresh & new. After all, wasn't jazz supposed to be the young upstart of music back in the day?

...Geezer

Well, since I'm a youngster, most of the tunes are all 'new' to me anyway. Beautiful melodies that are not found so much anymore.

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