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View Full Version : A sort of Ken Burns question


David Powell
02-15-2007, 04:37 PM
I have a question for Paul, which I know is going to be answerable in general that there is a lot of overlap and differing opinions but here goes:
One of the ensembles I play in is billed as a jazz ensemble. Apparently jazz is a lot of different things to different ears. Recently we were asked to incorporate "Moon River", "Chatanooga Choo-Choo", "Sentimental Journey", and some tunes like those into our list for that client's party. We obliged of course because the gig paid well, but our varied repertoire includes mostly Real Book tunes that I consider jazz standards like Satin Doll, Gee Baby Ain't I Good, Footprints, Shine, Limehouse Blues, Caravan, All Blues, Angel Eyes, etc. I know in just what I've listed we cross some sub genres already. So the question is what really are the sub genres of jazz and what characterizes them and what is definitely not jazz, but just a pop tune from the "jazz era"?

Paul Warburton
02-28-2007, 08:06 AM
Hey David. I've heard just aabout every tune in the world done with a jazz feel. Take Bill Evans version of ' Little Lulu ' from the old comic strip.
I think rather than being concerned about what is jazz, or what isn't, try to use your heart and imagination and forget the genre labels.
Good question though man!

Ken Smith
02-28-2007, 09:07 AM
I have a question for Paul, which I know is going to be answerable in general that there is a lot of overlap and differing opinions but here goes:
One of the ensembles I play in is billed as a jazz ensemble. Apparently jazz is a lot of different things to different ears. Recently we were asked to incorporate "Moon River", "Chatanooga Choo-Choo", "Sentimental Journey", and some tunes like those into our list for that client's party. We obliged of course because the gig paid well, but our varied repertoire includes mostly Real Book tunes that I consider jazz standards like Satin Doll, Gee Baby Ain't I Good, Footprints, Shine, Limehouse Blues, Caravan, All Blues, Angel Eyes, etc. I know in just what I've listed we cross some sub genres already. So the question is what really are the sub genres of jazz and what characterizes them and what is definitely not jazz, but just a pop tune from the "jazz era"?

Taking a toon like Moon River and 'Jazzing it up' is not that hard. Just walk 4 thru the word Moon and 4 thru Riverrr... And you have your tempo. Not too fast, maybe Quarter note = 60 fpr slow and 90 for medium up-tempo. Chatanooga is harder to convert away from its already well known 40s swing tempo. I actually was the Bassist on the Columbia House re-issues of the Glen Miller Band recordings back around 1972 with leader Buddy DeFranco so I know that tune somewhat.

What makes a Jazz tune or not to the average 'Joe' is a tune that was made famous publicly as a Jazz tune like 'Green Dolphin Street' for instance. That song was actually a ballad from an old movie called "On Green Dolphin Street' which takes place in some Norwegian fishing village. Imagine being up at 3 or 4am and a late movie comes on as you're dozing off and you hear this slow tune that rings a bell. Then you look up and see the title flash across the screen and it's the same as a Jazz tune you've played all your life but never had a clue where it came from. Well, thanks for Jazz, that tune is now a Standard. If left to the movie, it would have been long forgotten.

So, if it swings, let it rip. I have heard some tunes that one would have never guessed in a decade would be used as a jazz tune. Oh, one other. Once on a Duo gig in NY at a sports bar the pianist starts playing 'Take me out to the Ball Game'. For real... This was done as a medium swing tempo. Now, this is one of the few tunes in the world I could actually sing but never in my life had played it much less knew the changes to it..lol... The short story, he never called me again for another gig.. Sensitive people...:(

Greg Clinkingbeard
02-28-2007, 09:36 AM
http://www.stantonkessler.com/recordings/index.html
This guy has taken all the old TV theme songs we all know and love and done some interesting Jazz arrangements. 'Happy Trails' (not on the CD) opens with DB and guitar with the guitar pretty far outside. Is it Jazz? You better believe it.
It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.:D

Sam Sherry
02-28-2007, 07:03 PM
I think rather than being concerned about what is jazz, or what isn't, try to use your heart and imagination and forget the genre labels.












Thank you again, maestro.

Paul Warburton
03-01-2007, 09:52 AM
Thank you again, maestro.

Aww, bless you Sam!

David Powell
03-06-2007, 01:00 PM
Thank you so much for the great answers! That is just what I wanted to hear, really;- that it is how you approach the tune and not the tune. BTW, Ken, I never knew that about Green Dolphin Street and I must have a dozen Jazz recordings of that tune. I have Greensleeves by Coleman Hawkins and also by Coltrane. Of course it is one of my favorite tunes whether it is in the traditional English waltzy folk style or Coltrane's style. And that really is consistent with your advice on Moon River, Ken. My guitarist suggested we put it into 4 so, I guess he is thinking along the lines you suggest. We did it in 3 at that party because we figured that was what the client preferred. It worked OK, but it wasn't quite our vibe. I really do love that tune also though. No one else wants to do it again, but I'm leaning toward working it out in 4 with the guitarist and seeing if we can bring it back at least as an instrumental. On a good day Johnny Mercer and Mancini can sure make a memorable tune.

Robert Palmer
03-16-2007, 12:48 PM
What is 'jazz'? Well, it is a word definately! But, like the word 'book' it tells you very little about its content. There are several commentators (Marsalis and Crouch, for example) who are presented, by the media' as if they have a monopoly on the definition of the word 'jazz'. I hear words like 'Swing' and 'the Blues' but, whilst I accept the credibility of the arguments, don't have to look very far to find something that is 'jazz' that doesn't swing or contain any blue notes. I guess that any time anyone tries to draw a line around what jazz is, someone immediately steps over it. Does it Swing? Define swing and I'll tell you!! I agree it is in the performance of the piece but that is still a bit amorphus, isn't it?

Trad Jazz, Classic Jazz, Modern Jazz, Progressive Jazz, Orchestral Jazz, Jazz Funk, Jazz Rock, Acid Jazz, Free Jazz - the list is endless. Who decides what is and what isn't 'jazz'. Bottom line is, you do. As do I, as does Paul Warburton and Ken Smith and...... you get my point. There are 1000s of players the world over who think you can't play jazz on an electric bass! Tell that to Steve Swallow!

If you go and a listen to every cd ever discussed in Downbeat, Jazziz, Jazz Journal, Jazzwise etc then, in about 10 years, you will have your very own definition of what jazz is and then we can all disagree with you ;). In the meantime, enjoy the journey

Brian Glassman
03-20-2007, 01:49 AM
This thread reminds me of an old children's LP I heard a long time ago. It was made by Bob Keashan otherwise known as Captain Kangaroo who had a famous kid's show that ran for years from the late 50's well into the 60's and beyond. On it he is trying to explain what Jazz music is to some young kids w/ the help of a great Jazz combo that goes thru lots of styles. They take a tune like 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame' or something else just as well known and "un-Jazzy" and play it in various Jazz styles from Trad Dixieland up thru Swing and modern Jazz.
But the quote that stands out is when the kid has an epiphany of understanding and says, "You mean Jazz is a certain of way of playing any kind of music at all". I think that kinda sums it up.

BG

David Powell
03-22-2007, 02:08 PM
This thread reminds me of an old children's LP I heard a long time ago. It was made by Bob Keashan otherwise known as Captain Kangaroo who had a famous kid's show that ran for years from the late 50's well into the 60's and beyond. On it he is trying to explain what Jazz music is to some young kids w/ the help of a great Jazz combo that goes thru lots of styles. They take a tune like 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame' or something else just as well known and "un-Jazzy" and play it in various Jazz styles from Trad Dixieland up thru Swing and modern Jazz.
But the quote that stands out is when the kid has an epiphany of understanding and says, "You mean Jazz is a certain of way of playing any kind of music at all". I think that kinda sums it up.

BG I mostly asked the question because when I say I'm in a group that plays jazz, people ask me what kind of jazz I'm talking about. :confused: I'm generally at a loss .... Is it swing, bebop, bop, hard bop, cool jazz, smooth jazz? From now on I'm just going to say it's good jazz. ;)
BTW, Brian, do you remember the fellow (I think it may have been Green-jeans in costume) that would once in a while bring this huge double bass on the show. It must have been some kind of Prescott or Klotz. It was a monster! When I was a kid, I always thought that was the coolest thing.

Richard Prowse
03-25-2007, 02:55 AM
What makes a Jazz tune or not to the average 'Joe' is a tune that was made famous publicly as a Jazz tune like 'Green Dolphin Street' for instance. That song was actually a ballad from an old movie called "On Green Dolphin Street' which takes place in some Norwegian fishing village. Imagine being up at 3 or 4am and a late movie comes on as you're dozing off and you hear this slow tune that rings a bell. Then you look up and see the title flash across the screen and it's the same as a Jazz tune you've played all your life but never had a clue where it came from. Well, thanks for Jazz, that tune is now a Standard. If left to the movie, it would have been long forgotten.

I believe that the film 'On Green Dolphin Street' was actually shot in New Zealand.

Paul Warburton
06-10-2007, 12:41 AM
I mostly asked the question because when I say I'm in a group that plays jazz, people ask me what kind of jazz I'm talking about. :confused: I'm generally at a loss .... Is it swing, bebop, bop, hard bop, cool jazz, smooth jazz? From now on I'm just going to say it's good jazz. ;)
BTW, Brian, do you remember the fellow (I think it may have been Green-jeans in costume) that would once in a while bring this huge double bass on the show. It must have been some kind of Prescott or Klotz. It was a monster! When I was a kid, I always thought that was the coolest thing.

Of couse we know SMOOTH JAZZ isn't JAZZ...don't we??

Richard Prowse
06-11-2007, 04:51 AM
Of couse we know SMOOTH JAZZ isn't JAZZ...don't we??
Well, is smooth sand paper still sandpaper.
Must toilet paper be rough or is smooth more comforting?
It's a bit like night and day really.

'Night and day,
You are the one...'

Paul Warburton
06-11-2007, 11:19 AM
Well, is smooth sand paper still sandpaper.
Must toilet paper be rough or is smooth more comforting?
It's a bit like night and day really.

'Night and day,
You are the one...'

Oranges and apples...

Marcus Johnson
06-11-2007, 03:11 PM
Oranges and apples...

Not quite.... I actually like both oranges and apples.;)

I've made some bucks playing with some pretty famous "smooth jazz" people. Audiences seem to be happy at these gatherings. Hell, I even have a little fun busting out my Fender for a few minutes. Nothing against them... but if I had to do only that for the rest of my life, I'd be doing something else instead.

David Powell
06-14-2007, 03:05 PM
Of couse we know SMOOTH JAZZ isn't JAZZ...don't we??This is getting to some more of what I was asking. I have subbed in a "smooth jazz" trio. Some of that list did overlap with what we do in the 5th Sundays quartet, but the arrangements are different. 5th Sundays plays a little more like Tom Waits (loose, down tempo, and on the darker side). That smooth trio did Summertime as well as Smooth Operator and also Ain't Misbehavin' but the titles don't exactly give you the delivery. So I'm thinking when I hear Dave Bass do Roxanne by the Police, this is more like Coltrane's Greensleeves or Favorite Things. But beat wise, tempo wise, and general feel, what makes something Swing, Bop, Hard Bop, etc. Is there any way to generalize the differences? For instance when you described "When I play two beat I try to sound like Percy Heath...." I have something with Percy Heath I immediately pulled out to listen to so I could hear what you mean. Can you give me some more examples?

I think I know "latin", but Gene Cherico plays it different than Tommy Williams for instance on "Quiet Nights". In two recordings I have both with Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto, Williams syncopates it a bit but Cherico plays straight on the down beats and is more subtle with the harmonics in the line not always using the tonic, which gives is somehow a different support of the melody line. I transcribed one verse of the Cherico line because I really liked the way it was different. William sounds more like what I hear as straight "latin". Feedback, please?:o

Paul Warburton
06-18-2007, 06:35 AM
This is getting to some more of what I was asking. I have subbed in a "smooth jazz" trio. Some of that list did overlap with what we do in the 5th Sundays quartet, but the arrangements are different. 5th Sundays plays a little more like Tom Waits (loose, down tempo, and on the darker side). That smooth trio did Summertime as well as Smooth Operator and also Ain't Misbehavin' but the titles don't exactly give you the delivery. So I'm thinking when I hear Dave Bass do Roxanne by the Police, this is more like Coltrane's Greensleeves or Favorite Things. But beat wise, tempo wise, and general feel, what makes something Swing, Bop, Hard Bop, etc. Is there any way to generalize the differences? For instance when you described "When I play two beat I try to sound like Percy Heath...." I have something with Percy Heath I immediately pulled out to listen to so I could hear what you mean. Can you give me some more examples?

I think I know "latin", but Gene Cherico plays it different than Tommy Williams for instance on "Quiet Nights". In two recordings I have both with Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto, Williams syncopates it a bit but Cherico plays straight on the down beats and is more subtle with the harmonics in the line not always using the tonic, which gives is somehow a different support of the melody line. I transcribed one verse of the Cherico line because I really liked the way it was different. William sounds more like what I hear as straight "latin". Feedback, please?:o

That Percy Heath statement has to do with one thing: THE FEEL...unfortunately, as we all know, you can't teach the feel.
The Gene Cherico statement is exactly a good example. Brazilian music is ALL about FEEL....the simpler the better in terms of notes and unlike jazz, you need to pull back in terms of where you put your notes. In jazz, normally, we play a bit ahead of the quater notes to propel the music ahead and help to " lock in " the time.
And in case you weren't aware, Gene was Frank Sinatra's road bassist for years, which says a hell of alot about his feel.
A famuos Brazilian drummer friend of mine named Claudio Slon did a brazilian record with Ray Brown. It just didn't work. Ray played too ahead of the beat. He just couldn't pull back.
Normally when we play jazz in two beat, it creates tension ie....you just can't wait for the tension to release into four.
Listen to all those Oscar Peterson/Ray Brown things...it doesn't matter whether it's a trio with guitar or drums or both. They always play a couple chourus' in TWO to build the tension for when they open it up into four.
Same with Percy, you know he'll go into four eventually. That MICKEY gig I was talkin' about was just my play on Percy playin' in two all night. Percy can swing, be it in two or in 7 or what the hell! With Percy, you get meat and potatoes....with Ray, you get the gravy too because of all those fills he plays.

David Powell
06-20-2007, 11:25 AM
Wow, Paul. I've been studying this answer, contemplating it really. So much information in just a few sentences. One thought is I don't have enough Ray Brown or Gene Cherico (I did know he worked with Sinatra) to listen to. So some suggested recordings would be appreciated. The other thought after listening to "Secret Garden" this morning is I really wish I had more Paul Warburton to listen to. I have "Speak Low" of course also. You really have me studying here, Paul. Not that I play without "feel", but your insights are certainly making me pay attention to that more, and listen more for it also.

Thank you from the bottom of my BB string!

Paul Warburton
06-20-2007, 11:46 AM
The other thought after listening to "Secret Garden" this morning is I really wish I had more Paul Warburton to listen to. I have "Speak Low" of course also.
Thank you from the bottom of my BB string!

David, try Bossa Nova Eyes, Richie Cole..Palo Alto Records. Joe Bonner, Impressions of Copenhagen...Theresa Records. The Duo, Paul Warburton Dale Bruning, Our Delight, Capri Records. Cal Tjader Latin+ Jazz = Cal Tjader DCC Jazz ( this one is live from The Red Onion in Aspen. All Latin with no amp on the bass. About 1968)