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Bebop Spoken There

Randy Brecker: "It's still a thrill for me today to stand out front of a big band as the soloist and hear all that sound going on behind you. It brings the best out of me" - (DownBeat June 2019).

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2019 Parliamentary Jazz Awards

The voting is open between now and May 31 to enable site visitors to nominate their choices in the various categories of this year's APPJAG awards which can be done here.
BSH was very proud to be nominated and to win the 2018 Media Award and hope we can have your support again this year.

Today Monday May 20

Afternoon

Jazz

Jazz in the Afternoon - Cullercoats Crescent Club, 1 Hudleston, Cullercoats NE30 4QS. Tel: 0191 253 0242. 1:00pm. Free.

Evening

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To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Memories of Chris by Ann Alex

I just have to tell blog readers about one of my favourite memories of Chris Yates. I was a student of his Jazz Appreciation classes at the Centre for Lifelong Learning, from about 2008. He was an absolutely great tutor and a lovely man, as I’m sure many blog readers already know. He was very patient with me, as a beginner in Jazz. Anyway, one day he was talking to us about the Great American Songbook (GASBOOK, as Lance calls it!). I was somewhat puzzled about this, so I asked Chris, with an innocent smile on my little face,
‘Chris, can I get the Great American Songbook out of the library?’
He must have wanted to laugh out loud, but good tutors can’t do that, especially not with adult students. He gently explained what the term really meant, that it was a concept rather than an actual book, although the components of the GASBOOK must be contained in many books, on sheet music and on CD and even on old fashioned tapes and cylinders.
Which leads me to speculate about what is to be included In the Great American Songbook. This blog is meant to be for real live discussions, so I’d love to start a debate about what the GASBOOK really is. Everyone knows about the jazz standards which are part of the GASBOOK, but could you perhaps include more recent compositions, say the songs of Bob Dylan; Randy Newman; or Burt Bacharach, and if not, then why not?
Ann Alex

7 comments :

Lance said...

This is one of those 'eyes (or in this case ears)of the beholder' situations.
The general consensus is that it applies to songs written post World War 1 to 1960 or perhaps the advent of Rock and Roll. However, this would eliminate composers such as Stephen Sondheim whose work certainly belongs there.
Also, I don't think the composers have to be exclusively birth Americans. Ray Noble was British and few would deny The Very Thought of You entry to its pages.
On a lighter note - if the Gasbook had been available from the library you'd have had to hire a Pickfords truck to get it home!

Roly said...

An interesting topic. A subjective thing I think. To me its a personal and perhaps idiomatic choice. Some more recent songs (by Dave Frishberg for one example) are Gasbook material but other songs (eg. LLoyd Webber) just don't seem to meet the rather vague, nebulous criteria - whatever these vague, nebulous criteria be.
Hmmm - this is no help whatever - is it?
Roly

Roly said...

I've thought a bit more about this.
I think it embodies all songs (generally with English/American lyrics) which have a reasonable level of popularity and which reasonable numbers of jazz musicians and jazz singers are (or have been) attracted to for performance material.
Roly

George Milburn said...

I think the GASBook should remain as defined for the sake of convenience. i.e. great songs, generally in English, of the jazz era 20's to 60's. There's so much subjectivity and hyperbole in music that having map references which mean something is a help, especially for strangers to the terrain.
I agree, with Lance that Sondheim's work is great, isn't it! with Ann's election of Randy Newman & Dylan and Roly's comments on Dave Frishberg, not to mention the great Tom Waits, but including them under a label from a different era is in my opinion folly. A bit like saying that the Vikings were really sophisticated enough to be included in the period of the Roman Occupation. I like the Vikings obviously but what did the Romans ever do for us?!
Tom Jobim wrote in Portuguese but surely he must be in the GASbook?!

Blue said...

This is the way I see it. The Great American Songbook is a term for describing a collection of songs written between 1920 and 1960ish that have become standard repertoire for jazz singers.

Contemporary jazz singers often include more modern material in their repertoire, notably Lennon/McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton, but these should not be considered part of The Great American Songbook. To do so would undermine its usefulness as a definition.

However, I think you could say that songs such as Yesterday, River or I Will Always Love You are becoming standards.

Russell said...

Roly's suggestion that 'nebulous criteria' define the Gasbook is a good one. Keep it as it is. It is a bit like the old line 'If you have to ask what jazz is...' We shouldn't admit any old song writer (and certainly no young ones!). George's observation about Jobim is well made. He's in there for me, after all Sinatra helped put him there!

Russell

Ann Alex said...

I'm very pleased that the topic I started has given rise to a useful discussion. Thank you everyone. I've come to the conclusion that the GASbook is probably best defined as English and American songs of the period 1920-60. However that doesn't mean that Jazz singers always have to stick to GASbook material in their performances. And as Lance once said to me, GASbook songs have a certain universal quality and are often not identified with any particular singer, or even with their composer sometimes. As a sometime singer I think I'd draw the line at LLoyd Webber, mind!

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