the end of jazz

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Benjamin Schwarz describes the Ted Gioia book The Jazz Standards as "the sort of compulsive, encyclopedically knowledgeable enthusiast the jazz world engenders:"

Gioia here offers a guide to more than 250 key jazz compositions--the "building blocks of the jazz art form," as he puts it. He intends that this volume, made up of two-to-four-page entries for each song, will serve as a reference work for jazz lovers and as a practical handbook for musicians: "I have picked the compositions that ... a musician is most frequently asked to play," Gioia writes. "Not learning these songs puts a jazz player on a quick path to unemploymen
t.

However, writes, Schwarz, "I question Gioia's neglect of four songs in particular," listing Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's "Where or When." and three Cole Porter compositions: "In the Still of the Night," "Begin the Beguine," and "I've Got You Under My Skin." He continues:

These four songs are all indisputable entries in the so-called Great American Songbook--a notional catalogue of classic popular songs, a body of refined, complex work that stands at the apogee of this country's civilization, mostly written for the musical theater from roughly the 1920s to the 1950s... [...]

The result: the Songbook formed the lingua franca of jazz; its material provided the basis on which to assess a performer's improvisations; and jazz musicians constructed their own compositions on the chord structures of its entries.

He calls the Songbook "the crucial wellspring of jazz:"

Both jazz and its progenitor are worthy of radical--indeed, reactionary--efforts to preserve them. But despite Gioia's ardency, there is no reason to believe that jazz can be a living, evolving art form decades after its major source--and the source that linked it to the main currents of popular culture and sentiment--has dried up. Jazz, like the Songbook, is a relic--and as such, in 2012 it cannot have, as Gioia wishes for it, an "expansive and adaptive repertoire."

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on October 25, 2012 9:13 AM.

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