Choosing "standards" or "covers" for performance

(12 posts)
  1. surfinboy

    I'm in a quandary for choosing cover material or "standards" for my instrumental group to play out. I'm not crazy about the term "standard" - standards are great but so many of them have been done to death. Sometimes older swing tunes sound hokey to me, plus unless the crowd is filled with musicians picking obscure post-bop tunes just goes over the audience members' heads. The question then becomes what material to choose, especially stuff that's more modern and accessible/entertaining. I do want my stuff to be enjoyable and accessible - I've never been a "screw the audience" type of person. I do enjoy (gasp) entertaining people. But when picking more modern material it sometimes comes out just sounding like instrumental muzak versions of the original tunes, particularly without a vocalist. The other challenge with this material is coming up with the form - since relatively few modern tunes are a standard 32-bar form - they're more verse/chorus/bridge, etc. - I sometimes feel like I'm throwing some sort of modal blowing section into it and hoping it sticks. Anyone have any thoughts about this?

    Magical rainbow ponies

  2. guitarmo

    Accessible jazz is an oxymoron! HAH!

  3. TruthHertz

    Why do you think so many modern players write their own music? Composing is an expression that is closely akin to a thoughtful solo. You must know about form, meter, melody. harmony. Composing structures that are vehicles for improvisation is a skill that gets easier with practice and over time. It also teaches you a lot about yourself. Have you ever considered that option?

  4. surfinboy

    I do write as well. Right now we're probably half originals, half covers. Excellent point though!

    Guitarguy I'm definitely with you to a certain degree. However, a big problem with a lot of the jazz I hear is that it's just stuff for the other people on stage, jazz musicians & music geeks to listen to, and that's about where it ends. I once heard Wayne Krantz say that if you don't think about your audience, it's no longer art but just an act of selfishness. So many of us are so concerned about how hip our sh*t sounds, and the people we drag out to our gigs are usually just fellow musicians - then we go out and hear them, and it becomes an incestuous scene where it's just musicians listening to other musicians. Then when we're listening it's not for pleasure, but for evaluation and fitting that player or band at the appropriate spot in your artistic hierarchy.


  5. jazzacast55

    Man keep it simple and create a list of standards like maybe:

    Straight no chaser, All the things, There will never be another you, let's cool one, rhythm changes, body and soul, caravan, footprints.
    If you have those down like really down they are so much fun and they all have so much in them and are great for fun band interaction that the audience can pick up on.
    I think one of the biggest problems with jazz is that very few people no or maybe even care who they play to.
    It is important and it is ok to see your audience as other jazz musicians, they are people too, they are the majority of most jazz audiences, if your audience is musicians then you can go a little more crazy with your tune selection but if not play some of the great tunes I listed above, any audience will love those if you get them swinging!
    I would much rather hear someone killing it on rhythm changes (oles, wee) then struggling and sounding lost with a tune like Turns or cubism.
    I used to write tunes that were in the modern mold and realized that wasn't me, I like simple tunes with strong, memorable melodies that can be free enough for your band to have fun playing.
    I think if they are sounding cheesy, and don't take this the wrong way because I have asked my self the same thing, but if they are sounding cheesy maybe look at how you are playing them? how your band is playing them? you drummer mightn't be cutting it or the bass isn't swinging, they can make it sound cheesy as much as you.
    Hope that helps

  6. docbop

    Standards don't get old how people play them that gets old. You and your group needs to find fresh ways to play the tunes and good playing always sounds fresh. Playing within the boundaries of a gig is a good lesson in being creative.

  7. jazzacast55

    Couldn't agree more with docbop

  8. arewolfe

    You have to play tunes that speak to you. Songs that excite when you merely think about playing them.

    Never feel an obligation to play a standard - or any song - that bores you, unless you're getting paid specifically to do so.

  9. gleepglop

    "Standards don't get old how people play them that gets old. You and your group needs to find fresh ways to play the tunes and good playing always sounds fresh. Playing within the boundaries of a gig is a good lesson in being creative. "

    This +1000. Interpreting standards is a challenge in finding your creativity as a jazz musician--some might say that it's one of the essential aspects of being a jazz musician. I think overcoming the potential "staleness" is part of it, and most of us struggle with that to some extent.
    Listen to Keith Jarrett's trio; just about all they do is play standards and it always sounds fresh and creative, even when they're tunes you've heard him play before.

    That said, I also agree with working on original music and playing music the speaks to you. You don't have to feel a connection with every standard, but if you can't find 100+ standards to connect with, there is something else that's the problem. Most of the jazz musicians I know complain that they don't get to play standards enough--most gigs are 90-100% original music.

  10. silverwater

    There aren't many standards you can't play with a 1/2 time back beat feel. Playing Skylark over a rock beat is surprisingly fun, same with Freedom Jazz Dance. And let's not forget about Summertime techo.

    Stern's got some fun tunes to play, like Chromazone. There's "Wayne's Thang" by Kenny Garrett. Wayne himself has a lot of tunes that can work how you described. "Cats and Kittens" by Peter Erskine. "Phyrgia" by Adam Rogers. And of course there are countless Scofield groove tunes break out. For Metheny tunes I've always wanted to play "Airstream".

    Find some Tribal Tech stuff to play. I made a rhythm section sheet for "Nite Club", let me know if you want it and I can send it to you.

    I play"Hot 'Lanta" by the Allman Brothers sometimes, I made a chart for that I could send you too.

    But when all else fails, play something by Stevie Wonder. People flip out for him.


You must log in to post.