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#1 ghost of miles

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 10:45 AM

Just the Facts

#2 Joe G

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 11:50 AM

I like it.

#3 Rooster_Ties

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 12:18 PM

Just the Facts

Hell yeah!!

FYI, back in January the church handbell choir I direct played a homemade arrangement of the Depeche Mode tune "Enjoy The Silence" (along with Paul Simon's "The Sound of Silence"), during a service about meditation, quietude, and inner peace.

We performed that Depeche Mode tune (on bells) without one hint of irony, or snark, and it was beautiful. Afterwards, two church members who were well old enough to not have even the slightest idea who Depeche Mode was, each came up to say how much they "really liked that first tune" - and one was even surprised to learn that the piece wasn't composed specifically for bells in the first place.

FYI, our handbell choir will be performing two or three Radiohead tunes, based on the lush and complex solo-piano arrangements of Christopher O'Riley, hopefully by sometime this Spring ('08).

And I guarantee they will be a thing a beauty.

Edited by Rooster_Ties, 18 September 2007 - 01:22 PM.


#4 The Magnificent Goldberg

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 12:32 PM

It has been a matter of real regret to me that the word "covers", which used to have a real meaning - that a cover version was specifically intended to steal sales of a probable hit recording - has been used for a couple of decades to indicate any tune that anyone has ever recorded before; a completely meaningless definition.

The Bad Plus make that point very clearly. Good.

One can't dictate how people will (mis)use a word. But one can regret. And can keep on using the word correctly despite the eforts of the uncomprehending.

MG

#5 Uncle Skid

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 12:46 PM

I like it, too.

Pianist David Hazeltine has also done some interesting covers, and I find myself a bit hesitant to admit I really like some of them. This might be related to the assumption that "rock (and "pop" songs as well) are not worthy of the jazz tradition" -- and therefore, it can't possibly be any good.

Wrong! Check out his covers of Bacharach's "The Look of Love", and even the Bee Gees (!) "How Deep is Your Love".

Maybe not earth shattering, but I do believe he approaches those tunes with a certain amount of reverence, similar to TBP.

And I like those covers because I really "know" those tunes, good or bad.

#6 JSngry

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 01:33 PM

There's so much right with what they're saying (as well as a few things wrong, but little, quibbling things they are overall), and so much wrong with why they're having to say them that it makes me wonder if the fact of the latter is an indicator that the existence of the former is so much whistling in the dark at this point, well into our third decade of What Jazz REALLY Is, which is a much bigger problem than Jazz That Isn;t REALLY Jazz...

As a companion listening piece, try Monday's My Ever Changing Moods. Quite a diversity of song selection, quite a bit of "reimaging", and none of it done with as much as a trace of irony, including doing Blondie's "Call Me" as a smooth Afro-Bossa type thing.

People gotta realize that the way of nature/life is push-pull, serperate-unify, yin-yang. Shit can only stay apart naturally for so long before it has to come back together again, naturally. It's only the freaks, fools, and stiffasses who got a fear about nature doing what it does that get too terribly wigged about that, but the ones that there are sure don't seem to mind making noise about it!

When you gotta define what something natural is, hey, that's too late right there.

#7 DukeCity

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 04:00 PM

Sometimes it seems that we (as listeners, or the writers that were quoted on the TBP blog) over-think these things. TBP was saying that they're not doing those covers with a knowing wink or an ironic agenda. They're just taking tunes they like, and playing them in a way that pleases them. We might dig it, or not. But it doesn't always bear up under too much scrutiny.

What I'm not sure of is when jazz players in the '40s or '50s were doing show tunes or pop songs, how much was it that they just liked the tunes and the chord changes for blowing, and how much was it about playing some melodies that folks could recognize (or record companies wanting to put out recognizable titles)? Did some porducers/label guys specifically want some pop titles, or were they just as happy to put out records with all originals?

#8 The Magnificent Goldberg

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 04:14 PM

What I'm not sure of is when jazz players in the '40s or '50s were doing show tunes or pop songs, how much was it that they just liked the tunes and the chord changes for blowing, and how much was it about playing some melodies that folks could recognize (or record companies wanting to put out recognizable titles)? Did some porducers/label guys specifically want some pop titles, or were they just as happy to put out records with all originals?

Interesting question. My guess is that they liked the tunes and, particularly, the changes. Otherwise, they wouldn't have bothered writing new tunes over those changes; they'd have thought up some changes that they DID like. Course, they did that, too :)

This stuff was a general part of the musical language of the time and formed a communal resource for all kinds of musicians/singers and the audience.

MG

Edited by The Magnificent Goldberg, 18 September 2007 - 04:16 PM.


#9 Alexander

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 05:30 PM

It has been a matter of real regret to me that the word "covers", which used to have a real meaning - that a cover version was specifically intended to steal sales of a probable hit recording - has been used for a couple of decades to indicate any tune that anyone has ever recorded before; a completely meaningless definition.


This is one of those cases where that whole "art vs. the marketplace" thing comes in and makes mincemeat out of our perceptions and even our language. Your point, with which I don't disagree (it bugs me that people have confused the meaning of the word "con" (as in "con man" and "con game") and now think of "conning" as something a "con man" does, when actually "con" is short for "confidence"), is that "cover" once meant a souless, money-grubbing rush-job of a recording that was intended to play on the confusion of the record buyer when confronted with ten versions of the song he just heard on the radio. Your argument (as I read it) is that a recording of a song that was intended respectfully shouldn't be called a "cover" because it wasn't made with the marketplace in mind. But we run into a couple of snags when we ask the question: How can we tell the difference? Yes, in the wake of the Beatles popularity, everybody was recording songs like "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "Can't Buy Me Love." And, yes, most versions of those songs were horrible and made only to grab a fast buck. But what happens when a song is recorded for all the wrong reasons, but still works? Was Otis Redding REALLY honoring the Stones when he recorded his version of "Satisfaction"? Not likely. From what I've read, Otis had never even heard the song when it was suggested that he cut it. Similarly, was Aretha REALLY giving her props to Otis when she recorded "Respect"? Otis didn't think so. He out and out said, "That girl stole my song!"

More later...

#10 Chas

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 07:41 PM

We're not claiming that all the rock songs we cover have lyrics as profound as Bowie's, but we do declare the lyrics of ANY of our cover pieces more relevant to the current human condition than "Surrey With a Fringe on Top." (Even apart from the lyrics, which is the better piece of music, "Surrey" or "Mars," anyway?)

" Even apart from the lyrics...." A pretty ironic comment from a group of instrumentalists , though one consistent with a pop sensibility with its over-emphasis on lyrical relevance reflecting a callow presumption of the uniqueness of its own psychological/affective mindscape .
Music as art ( or that which endures) , is not concerned with "the current human condition" , but rather those universal aspects of human experience that are not capturable by necessarily time-bound lyrics . Opera for example has endured not because of its lyric content , but in spite of it . As music-making has evolved , the transference of emotional resonance from words to sounds has allowed for greater communication of nuance and complexity not to mention more interpretative , projective , personalized listening .

We love all the original versions of the music that we cover, and would rather listen to good rock than much of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley.

Anyone can make invidious comparisons between individual pieces of music (particularly on the basis of lyrical content) , but on the whole the songcraft embodied in earlier forms of popular music is superior to my mind , the PoMo mantra , " It's all good " notwithstanding .

Face it: whatever you dig at 13, you will dig for the rest of your life.

Not universally true , though our present 'arrested development' culture wherein thirty year-olds ride skateboards and play video games , makes me fear this may be true :(

#11 umum_cypher

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 03:54 AM

So what does it mean that all the negative press quotes come from British sources? Did no-one else in the world perceive any irony?

I've been thinking about this for a few days, after getting Yaron Herman's new trio CD in the post - a considered, accomplished thing, but with an unfunny, ungood cover of Britney's 'Toxic' plonked in the middle. With Gerald Cleaver reduced to polite metronome.

#12 Simon Weil

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 06:04 AM

So what does it mean that all the negative press quotes come from British sources? Did no-one else in the world perceive any irony?


Well, it might just be that the UK press has decided to have someone to thump and the BP is elected. This year there seems to be an excess of pissed-offness floating about in the UK.

My theory for knife crime here.

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#13 7/4

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 08:37 AM

This year?

#14 Tom Storer

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 09:24 AM

We're not claiming that all the rock songs we cover have lyrics as profound as Bowie's, but we do declare the lyrics of ANY of our cover pieces more relevant to the current human condition than "Surrey With a Fringe on Top." (Even apart from the lyrics, which is the better piece of music, "Surrey" or "Mars," anyway?)

" Even apart from the lyrics...." A pretty ironic comment from a group of instrumentalists , though one consistent with a pop sensibility with its over-emphasis on lyrical relevance reflecting a callow presumption of the uniqueness of its own psychological/affective mindscape .


Well said, Chas. I generally admire the thoughtfulness and insight of this blog, but I was a bit non-plussed by a non-ironic reference to David Bowie's "profound lyrics."

The lyrics of "Surrey" are perfectly silly but don't pretend to be anything else. The song is a vehicle for music-making and nothing else. Blossom Dearie and Betty Carter sang it memorably. Sonny Rollins played it, so did Miles Davis. Who did "Life on Mars"? David Bowie. I mean, come on. You can appreciate David Bowie (I don't, but I accept the possibility in the abstract) but look at the competition from the interpreters of "Surrey."

(In other words: JAZZ RULES OK)

#15 Jim Alfredson

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 10:20 AM

While there are much better songs to use to represent the "Great American Songbook" that Surrey With A Fringe On Top, I find it hard that anyone can argue that it's a good song. It's frickin' terrible!

And if we're going to judge how great songs are by how many people covered it, then I guess "Yesterday" by the Beatles is the greatest song ever written in the history of mankind.

#16 JSngry

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 10:42 AM

The lyrics of "Surrey" are perfectly silly but don't pretend to be anything else. The song is a vehicle for music-making and nothing else.


Actually, the song is a vehicle for plot developement/exposition/whatever in a musical theatre piece. The melody & lyrics should be judged as to how well they function in that role.

Everything else, everything else, pro or con, is "extra".

Edited by JSngry, 19 September 2007 - 10:43 AM.


#17 Noj

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 10:58 AM

One phrase made me cringe when reading that essay: "even girls like it."

Otherwise, I'm pretty much on the same page.

#18 Tom Storer

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 11:33 AM

And if we're going to judge how great songs are by how many people covered it, then I guess "Yesterday" by the Beatles is the greatest song ever written in the history of mankind.


No, not by how many people covered it, but by who covered it! I'm just a layman. I don't think I have any particular insight into whether a song is good or bad in some Platonic sense. It's particular styles and performances that grab me.

I just don't have the rock sensibility that the Bad Plus and, I assume, much of their audience do. I vastly prefer Tin Pan Alley to rock, probably because so much great jazz is built on Tin Pan Alley material. I'd rather listen to Miles, Rollins or Betty Carter play an otherwise forgettable composition than listen to David Bowie sing anything.

But I'm more than willing to let the Bad Plus attack my prejudices with their rock covers, and will do so when they play my town on October 11.

#19 ghost of miles

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 11:41 AM

I agree with the spirit of the piece and a number of its points (one reason why I posted it, in addition to being interested in how Organissimo folk would view it), but the slam on "Surrey's" lyrics seems a bit misplaced. It's basically a standard, if somewhat more clever, "baby I got wheels!" tune in that regard, the kind of thing the Beach Boys later ran into the ground in the early/mid-1960s, with far worse words IMO, and a theme that's generated tons of crapola rock songs. (OK, I'm prejudiced... I long ago got sick of the Beach Boys and have never been a fan of my-little-409-or-Corvette-or-what-have-you musical vehicles, so to speak.) And Bowie's never written silly, all-but-meaningless lyrics? :blink:

But yeah, right on to artists not turning their backs on their experiences and/or times. I mean, even though that's one reason why I don't much like Brian Wilson--he wrote about cars, girls, and being young in California in the early 1960s, all through the filter of being a lonely, "sensitive," not-loved-enough white boy. That's a viewpoint I found compelling when I was, ah, feeling the same way about myself ( :rolleyes:) 20+ years ago, but not now. But at least he wasn't trying to be Rudy Vallee or Bing Crosby...or playing their songbook.

Edited by ghost of miles, 19 September 2007 - 11:48 AM.


#20 JSngry

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 12:06 PM

Ya' know, most people just enjoy a song that tells them some sort of a story in some sort of a way they can more or less relate to and get on with it after they do.

It does indeed take a special sort of person to get into music too much deeper than that, but it takes a really special sort of person to not be able to understand the fundamental humanity of that most simple of reactions...

I mean, debating the "musical merits" of various forms of "popular music" as if there's some absolute standard of "worth" that exists apart from the basic truth that whatever is popular whenever it is popular is probably going to have gotten an audience in the first place based entirely on "intrinsic music merit" or some such is just sorta....looney, doncha' think?

It's simple, really - Rodgers and Hammerstein create a world that David Bowie never could. And vice-versa. If you like one and not the other, you cna find all sorts of "justifications" and shit, but it all comes down to that, whichever one it is, it tells you some sort of a story in some sort of a way that you can more or less relate to. Which is all cool, all good, but jeez, for once, the masses have it right - get on with it after it does. If Bowie turns you out, stimulates your mind, body, & spirit in a way that few things do, go ahead on with that. If Bowie turns you off, go ahead on with that too.

The thing that turns me off about both sides of this "argument" is that both sides tend to presume that all ears hear/feel the same sounds more or less the same way & that one's "choices" are inevitable a result of one's mental acuity or (realtive) lack thereof. I definitely believe in the whole "lowest common denominator" thing, and the destructive effects of the manipulations thereof, but no way do I believe that a supposedly "lower" form of music having the power to truly speak to somebody in a similar - or perhaps even identical - way that a supposedly "higher" form speaks to somebody else is impossible.

#21 JSngry

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 12:21 PM

...but the slam on "Surrey's" lyrics seems a bit misplaced. It's basically a standard, if somewhat more clever, "baby I got wheels!" tune in that regard...


I can't stress this enough - that song, and many more like it, are first & foremost situationally-specific compositions for musical theatre. They don't exists as Tin Pan Alley song-plugger's fodder or something like that, they were written for a specific situation to tell/advance a specific story in a specific manner. Which is not to say that musical theatre has not been without it's "got a great song, gotta fit it into the show" type things, just that I don't think it's fair to "objectively" evaluate these type things without considering original context/intent.

I'm no expert on musical theatre, but I think it's safe to say that the lyrics (and probably melody) "Surrey With a Fringe On Top" would not have had reason to exist were it not for the creation of Oklahoma! If none of it speaks to you, hey, I can understand (even though I'm old enough to have a subliminal-residual "feeling" for the thing myself, especially having one side of my family coming from Pennsylvania Dutch stock...), but just say so. It's cool, ya' know?

Claiming that there's a deficiency of some sort there, however, flies in the face of just how well that song fits/serves its purpose in its original context. And again, if none of that speaks to you, hey, no problem afaic. But like Aretha said, let's call this song just exactly what it is...

#22 JSngry

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 12:27 PM

And furthermore.... :g :g :g

I don't think that anybody needs to "apologize" or otherwise attempt to validate for not liking anything that's handed down with "value already attached". Fuck that shit. Hear with your own ears, think with your own mind, & feel with your own heart.

I do think, however, that blowing it all off just because it's "old" or some shit and therefore you just know that it's not going to offer you anything is pretty much as lame as it gets.

But that's a different thing altogether.

#23 ghost of miles

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 12:27 PM

But that's my basic point--it's a car song. I think the Bad Plus (wrongly) hold it up for ridicule because nobody--well, not too many folk, anyway--are likely to be driving a surrey these days, with or without a fringe on top. In that regard it's NOT particularly silly... and as you said, it's serving a purpose in a musical, which is indeed another kind of ballgame to some extent. And right, songs ultimately tell stories... it's just that I hate car-song stories! :D But that's just me... obviously tons of people love 'em, and I don't wanna deny anybody's right to aesthetic happiness, pleasure, or general love of life.

#24 JSngry

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 12:29 PM

The difference between Brian Wilson & Rogers/Hammerstein, though, is that the latter probably wouldn't have written a "car song" if they wouldn't have had to. ;)

#25 JSngry

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 12:31 PM

I don't wanna deny anybody's right to aesthetic happiness, pleasure, or general love of life.


And you call yourself a jazz lover...

#26 Larry Kart

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 12:46 PM

I took the liberty of sending Jim's "I can't stress this enough" post to Ethan Iverson at Do The Math, identifying who Jim is (a challenge, believe me). :D Sorry if that was out of bounds, but Jim's point was so on the money, and I think that Ethan and his readers needed to see it.

#27 JSngry

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 12:59 PM

But dammit Larry, for the most part, I'm on their side!

Hope you got that in there too...

#28 Larry Kart

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 01:16 PM

I didn't say that, but I think it's clear from your post that aren't agin 'em at all.

#29 ghost of miles

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 01:17 PM

But dammit Larry, for the most part, I'm on their side!


Yeah... not exactly sure what you and I were "disagreeing" about.... :unsure: Brian Wilson? ^_^ I simply meant to say that their point about "Surrey"--that it's supposedly a ridiculous, irrelevant song because it's about a surrey--was misguided. It's a vehicle song, in more ways than one (theatrical as well as automobile), and therefore not absurd on the grounds that they suggest it is--unless one is capable of understanding songs/stories that contain only one's own contemporary contexts/details/etc. (Hmm... isn't Bowie's "Space Odyssey" a "car song" as well? Oh man, I gotta get back to work!)

#30 JSngry

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 01:39 PM

(Hmm... isn't Bowie's "Space Odyssey" a "car song" as well?


Bingo, other than it's "Space Oddity"...

But you're too young to know that.... :g :g :g :g :g



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