LearnJazzPiano.com archives: trends in jazz
grsbmd -- 06/15/2005, 13:52:38 -- #15151
Just wondering, are the days of jazz standards over.  The only song that I can think of written in the last twenty years that I've heard covered in the style of a jazz standard in a scofield song.

It kind of seemed like jazz took an abrupt turn from mainstream to fusion in the 80's and mainstream didn't return until the 90's.  But when it came back it seemed like it was missing something.  Sure there were good musicians with good albums, but there weren't any stand-out groups like any of the miles davis quintets and nobody was writing songs that anyone covered.

Just wondering if anyone else saw it this way.

Barry -- 06/15/2005, 15:11:20 -- #15156
A lot of the time, the problem with modern jazz tunes is that they are pretty difficult to play.  It's unlikely the modern jazz composers are going to write standard-type tunes full of ii-V progessions as they would be re-inventing the wheel.

Let's face, your average jobbing jazz musician probably plays most of his gigs with scratch bands at functions and it's just not economical, possible or desirable to spend a lot of time rehearsing for what are, essentially, background music gigs.  

I have been rehearsing with some friends recently just for the opportunity to play some more difficult and modern material and there are plenty of good tunes out there but, like I say, you wouldn't want to be sight reading the charts on a gig.  Opportunies to play that kind of material are scarce unless you are playing to jazz fans (i.e in a jazz club) but we don't get to do that very often.  Chances are, nobody will ever hear us play the stuff we are doing at the moment but that doesn't mean that the material isn't worth doing.

Also, I think that most jazz musicians these days would also consider themselves composers and are keen to express themselves by performing their own material.  Again, because most modern jazz tunes are a lot more complex than standards and have more detailed and specific arrangements, this makes them less attractive for musicians to cover as it's harder to create a different interpretation without losing the essence of  the original composition.

I can't agree that jazz took an abrupt turn from mainstream to fusion in the 80's - I would say that statement ignores about thirty years of jazz history.  I suppose it depends what you consider to be mainstream, but I certainly wouldn't put, say the Miles Davis at the Plugged Nickel recordings (1965) into the mainstream category.  Bitches Brew was recorded in 1969 so fusion was well established before 1970 - never mind the 80's!

As to 'stand-out groups', I'm not really sure what you mean by that term.  I certainly agree that we are unlikely ever to have groups as universally influential as the MIles quintets again - but I don't think that's neccessariy a bad thing.  I won't really go into why, as I wrote quite a lot on the subject in another post.  If you are interested read the thread entitled 'Improvising a Piano Solo'.

Now, just because groups won't totally change the face of jazz in the way that those earlier bands did, doesn't mean that there aren't some fantastic modern groups producing some great original music.  When I listen to groups like E.S.T or the Dave Holland Quintet and albums like Wayne Shorter's 'Alegria' or Miroslav Vitous' 'Universal Syncopations' I hear music that is hugely different in terms of style and conception and yet still uniquely original and vital.

I think that sometimes there is a general apathy and laziness about modern jazz musicians and listeners that results in this attitude that there's nothing new and nothing's happening.  I just can't agree with that as I keep finding new and original material by contemporary artists that, to me, is fresh and exciting.  

There's no doubt that this music is often harder to come across due to the changing role of record companies and their marketing strategies that have stopped the industry from being anywhere near as artist-led as it was in the past.  However, if you can look beyond the constant promotion of the likes of Jamie Cullum and Diana Krall, the stuff is out there.

Happy Hunting....


CynBad -- 06/15/2005, 16:04:50 -- #15157
LOTS of songs are being used as "new" jazz standards these days.
Everything from the Beatles to Kurt Cobain, Stevie Wonder, etc.

jmkarns -- 06/15/2005, 16:10:42 -- #15158
The question then is; What is a standard?
I heard someone say that half of jazz improvisation is tradition and the other half is progressive.  

marksdg -- 06/15/2005, 18:01:20 -- #15165
I believe it is perfectly possible for people to come up with new innovations in jazz, but you can't just look at individual artists and say "hey they are doing something different" and think that jazz is changing.  To really say jazz  styles are changing, you have to have a change that many people are going along with, "jumping on the bandwagon".  I don't think this has happened in the last twenty years, it terms a new development embraced by a large number of musicians and listeners.

Scot -- 06/15/2005, 20:47:31 -- #15173
Don't make the mistake of putting jazz tunes into a category or a box.  I play Pink Floyd, Indigo Girls, Miles Davis, Scofield, Metheny, 70's hit tunes, anything I feel like. The only difference is I'm playing them my way, which falls into a more jazzy style.

That is the beauty of jazz. It gives musicians a chance to take a hit tune and make it their own instead of covering it like it was recorded on the CD.  

No walls, no barriers, no lines to paint inside- jazz is music that has a lot of improvisation in it, and any good tune out there can be played as jazz.

Mike -- 06/15/2005, 23:20:11 -- #15177
I just say Im playin Jazz 'cause Im almost always swingin', I almost always have tensions on my voicings and rarely am playing a triad over and over thru a distorted amplifier, neither do I wear Leather pants when I play and I rarely have an overflowing mug of Bud on top of my Steinway. Damn i do miss abusing drugs though.  That is one thing you can do no matter what type of music you play.  My health just will not permit it any more.  I'll tell you life takes on a different meaning when you can not get up in the morning and decide to stuff your mouth full of majic mushrooms before a wedding gig.

sdm -- 06/16/2005, 00:54:59 -- #15181
So we're not going to have a Cole Porter now because jazz isn't the pop music of today.  There are lots of good song writers in pop music (yeah, lots of hacks too) but it doesn't tend to be jazz.  Now, there are lots of good things being written in jazz too but since it isn't the pop music of today it doesn't get the universal distribution and recognition it did in Cole's day.

It's always fun for me to hear a pop tune done really nicely (in a jazz style) though.  Thirty years ago I dreamed of doing Suicide is Painless but someone beat me too it.  Can't remember who just now.

Barry -- 06/16/2005, 05:44:56 -- #15184
"I don't think this has happened in the last twenty years, it terms a new development embraced by a large number of musicians and listeners."

marksdg, if you read the other post I refer to (titled improvising a piano solo) then you can read why I think that won't happen.  Why does everyone have to adopt a stylistic convention for it to contribute to the evolution of the music?  I hear sounds in music today that I don't hear when I listen to jazz from the 80's.  Is  it really the case that groups like E.S.T and the Bad Plus and players like Brad Mehldhau aren't playing anything stylistically different from the music of that time?  I can't agree that that's the case....

7 -- 06/16/2005, 11:32:26 -- #15193
Today's innovation is tomorrow's cliché.

orson -- 06/16/2005, 14:19:26 -- #15194
Does anyone have suggestions for relatively current pop tunes that might make a good jazz jam standard?  Something written in the last 10 years...

Kai -- 06/16/2005, 15:17:52 -- #15195
Exit Music for a Film (Radiohead) - it's been done classically with  a string quartet also.

Scot -- 06/16/2005, 16:38:15 -- #15201
Bill Evans beat you to "Suicide is Painless" :)

sdm -- 06/17/2005, 00:48:56 -- #15220
Him!  Cool, I'll need to find a copy.  I heard a rendition a few years ago but didn't know who it was.  Maybe him.  Thanks.  Hmm, nice company. <g>

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