Monday, October 10, 2011


Blog # 90: Standards

I have mixed feelings about jazz standards and the tradition. I, like everyone else, listened religiously to Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Clifford Brown, Horace Silver, Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson etc. I learned standards in school, transcribed solos from my favorite performers, practiced licks in all 12 keys and absorbed the tradition. Then I started to write my own music. First composing leadsheets(melodies with chord changes) and then got more into writing out bass lines, piano figures and getting more into creating a specific texture outside of just "I'll play the melody, you playing a walking bass line, you ride the cymbal and you comp". There comes a point where, as a composer, you get bored with just writing a melody with chord changes. You want to do something more. You start thinking outside the limitations of that format. Maybe you want to combine different influences, styles and genres you like. Now once you come up with something that isn't just 'standard straight-ahead jazz' you are forced to rationalize 'your style' with the tradition and the idea of standards. Are you still going to play your new music and standards on the same gig? Will it be weird switching between styles?

I actually really love playing standards and they are an amazing tool to use when you're playing a gig with no rehearsal. They are a common language that enables you to play with people you've never even met before, but I wonder how much you can play JUST standards your whole career and develop your own identity. I know personally, I feel like my composing is very linked to my musical identity. I just don't know what the future is in playing standards forever and I feel like I want to create something different. I also don't feel like playing nothing but standards is that original. And while we're on the topic, there have been enough tribute albums made covering Coltrane or Monk's music.(Seriously, record labels, STOP WITH THE TRIBUTE ALBUMS!!) Our Jazz heros were playing their original stuff and the best tribute to our jazz hero's is to continue to compose our own new original music. I go back and forth on if I even want to play standards publicly again. But I have no answer or conclusion. These are just more things I think about...

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