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

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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