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sgcim

Stephen Sondheim RIP

89 posts in this topic

You can improvise on anything, but improvisation and jazz aren't the same thing, and really, just because you can doesn't really mean that mean you should.

I'm just like, fuck it, everything involved here is already dead, we're just watching it die in slow motion/real time, like, what did that man say, it's after the end of tomorrow?

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7 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

It probably shouldn't be a matter of consideration (as in a plus or a minus), but, as I said above, it may reveal something about the nature of SS's songs.

Could it also reveal something about jazz musicians' bias against certain types of progressions or melodies?  I'm not a fan of Sondheim, and I can't name anything he wrote after "Send In the Clowns," but I'm just curious.

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17 minutes ago, Teasing the Korean said:

Could it also reveal something about jazz musicians' bias against certain types of progressions or melodies?  I'm not a fan of Sondheim, and I can't name anything he wrote after "Send In the Clowns," but I'm just curious.

Could be. What types of progressions and melodies do you have in mind?

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On 12/4/2021 at 8:09 PM, Teasing the Korean said:

OK, final question:  Do you still put fat in glass jars and keep it in the fridge?

Sondheim has seldom been accused of schmaltz.

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Broadway and jazz may have fed off of each other at one time, but once Jesus Christ Superstar opened up (an old friend of mine was on the scene at the time, and he likened it to "Springtime For Hitler"), it was pretty much over. For a concert I recently played that involved the influence of Broadway on jazz. I was able to find only one song from the 70s that had a strong enough melody and harmonic structure that could ,IMHO, inspire a jazz adaptation, and I had to change it from a basically rubato ballad to a med. tempo swing tempo.

The songs they write for the shows of the last 40 years simply lack that type of melodic/harmonic flow/forward motion that I feel are necessary for a jazz adaptation.

Sondheim's influences were classical music and songs from shows and movies, so from the latter he absorbed the influence that enabled him to write songs that you could make a convincing jazz performance out of, but he'd only write maybe one per show, and that's only taking into account the early shows; the later ones dealt with plots that didn't need any songs like that.

Also, the absence of any type of Black music influence doesn't help.

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Enlightening post: "The songs they write for the shows of the last 40 years simply lack that type of melodic/harmonic flow/forward motion that I feel are necessary for a jazz adaptation" -- exactly. Not that suitibility for jazz interpretation is in itself a plus or a minus -- As Jim has said, those songs arguably were doing or trying to do other things  and were found to be entertaining by audiences -- but your characterization of the "songs they write for the shows of the last 40 years " does seem to me to be accurate.

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About "songs" and "jazz"...Check out Charles McPherson on "The Chill Of Death" to see how the supposition that the "bebop" vocabulary requires "song forms" and other simple cyclic containments is a choice made by musicians, not a divinely imposed imperative.

Most musicians, jazz or otherwise, aren't particularly ambitious. I would say lazy, but that's not it, a lot of people put a lot of hard work into learnting to play one very narrow and/or deep musical construct.

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On 01/12/2021 at 2:42 PM, Teasing the Korean said:

Sondheim was assessing Hart's abilities based on Sondheim's contemporaneous standards of what a successful Broadway show was supposed to accomplish, and not on Hart's reality.

I'm not sure about that. Sondheim praised the lyrics of Hart's contemporary Cole Porter and compared Hart's work unfavourably with that of Dorothy Fields and Frank Loesser, whom he also liked. I think Sondheim understood vintage musicals very well; he was unimpressed with the craftsmanship of Hart. I think I agree with him actually.

BTW I'm not completely sold on Sondheim's critical acumen. I have his book Finishing the Hat in which he also attacks Noel Coward, which is nuts, and praises DuBose Heyward and Truman Capote as lyricists -- each of them wrote just one show each and I can't say I'm very impressed with their work there.

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On 12/7/2021 at 8:45 PM, Larry Kart said:

Could be. What types of progressions and melodies do you have in mind?

Well, I'm generalizing here, but I think it is safe to say that many jazz musicians of a certain time period or a certain stylistic preference gravitated toward tunes with a lot of chromaticism, and certainly a lot of "functional" harmony, lots of ii minor/V7/I chord progressions along the way.   It's a chicken and egg question as to whether these kinds of tunes are inherently more "suitable" to jazz improvisation, or whether players' near-total immersion into this harmony over many decades resulted in patterns of improvisation that do not neatly translate to other harmonic situations.  And again, I am generalizing.  

I think that Burt Bacharach is a genius, and while we have certainly had jazz versions of his tunes, I don't think we've had nearly as many as we may have had or even should have had, and I think this is another example of what I'm talking about.  

One other example:  While reharmonization by jazz musicians is usually intended to improve tunes, there are times when it dumbs them down to make a tune easier to blow on.  The commonly played chords in bars 3 and 4 of the A section to "Dancing on the Ceiling" by Rodgers and Hart are easy to blow over, but not as interesting as the chords Rodgers wrote.

I should add that the only Sondheim song I really know that has music by Sondheim is "Send in the Clowns."  Back when I used to do cocktail piano gigs, this was one that I had to have ready.  I would play the tune, but I refused to improvise on it.  I did not think it lent itself to jazz improvisation.  So I would play the melody, let my mind wander for three minutes, and pray that the song would end soon.  It's probably still going on somewhere.  

So I was kind of playing devil's advocate with my question, but not entirely.

On 12/8/2021 at 2:12 PM, crisp said:

I'm not sure about that. Sondheim praised the lyrics of Hart's contemporary Cole Porter and compared Hart's work unfavourably with that of Dorothy Fields and Frank Loesser, whom he also liked. I think Sondheim understood vintage musicals very well; he was unimpressed with the craftsmanship of Hart. I think I agree with him actually.

BTW I'm not completely sold on Sondheim's critical acumen. I have his book Finishing the Hat in which he also attacks Noel Coward, which is nuts, and praises DuBose Heyward and Truman Capote as lyricists -- each of them wrote just one show each and I can't say I'm very impressed with their work there.

Regardless, he was comparing apples to oranges. 

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I forgot about a musician who I posted about before, Charlie Rosen. He's done big band jazz arrangements of a number of Sondheim tunes, and although most of them feature singers, there are also jazz solos on most of them. I found out about them just before the pandemic, and was thinking about seeing them live. A few guys I've worked with are in the band and have released jazz recordings of their own.

 

Edited by sgcim

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14 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

Thanks TTK. Very helpful.

You're welcome.  

After I posted last night, I sat down and the piano and fooled around with "Send in the Clowns" for about a half hour. This must have been the first time I tried to play it in close to 40 years. Even though I am woefully out of practice, I am reversing that opinion I arrived at decades ago.  I do think you could do an introspective jazzy version of this tune.  I was playing the arpeggios in the left hand and doing some Bill Evans-y modal triads in the right hand.  I think it could work.  I'm halfway tempted to work up an arrangement.

 

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Allen Austin-Bishop
Wait

Impacting
January 7th, 2022


Format(s): Jazz, Smooth Jazz

  Artist Title Time    
 
  Allen Austin-Bishop Wait 03:03    
  Allen Austin-Bishop Buffalo Ghost 05:53    
  Allen Austin-Bishop Evergreen 04:23    

Conversational and sumptuous jazz vocals with Allen Austin-Bishop's 'Wait'

Allen Austin-Bishop is starting 2022 with a nod to the genius of Mr Stephen Sondheim 

The single ‘Wait’ gives us Allen’s unique take on a song from Mr Sondheim’s musical, Sweeney Todd. In addition, to Wait, Allen also offers up two songs from popular artists Elbow (“buffalo ghost”) and the legendary Barbara Streisand (“Evergreen” from a Star is Born).  Allen Austin-Bishop, once again, is accompanied by an accomplished, tasteful and subtle band comprised of pianist Dorian Ford, bassist Mao Yamada, percussionist Rob Hervais-Alderman, saxophonist Katie Edwards, and celloist Fifi Homan.  Together the ensemble brings a freshness to these varied songs giving them a warm atmospheric vibe.

After seeing Sweeny Todd, on Broadway, I was hooked.  And it’s no accident that my first two albums, “Sorry Grateful and “No One is Alone”, take their titles from Sondheim’s songs.  We recorded Wait over the summer and thought, given Mr Sondheim's recent passing, now was a good time to release the song.” – Allen Austin-Bishop

Allen was born in Newark, New Jersey, but for some time, has been based in London. Allen made his recording debut in 2017 with “Sorry Grateful”, a collection of standards. Among its highlights are his versions of “Misty,” “The Shadow of Your Smile,” “Happiness is a Thing Called Joe” and “When I Fall in Love”.  More recently, Allen brought us festive cheer with his first holiday album entitled “Christmas” which included songs from popular artists such as The Sugababes, S Club-7, John Legend, Joni Mitchell, and the legendary Mel Torme.

image-e329daaba4e64253bcb737204fd82ecc-f
image-22a68525991a4d0cae951a93006579b8-f

www.austinbishop.com

  icon_facebook.pngicon_applemusic.pngicon_spotify.png  

Contact:
allen@austinbishop.com

 

 

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I seem to remember some jazz versions of Sindeim’s “Not While I’m Around,” from Sweeny Todd.

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