Top 50 JAzz Blog

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Codified Jazz Solo

Several improvised solos in the Basie band's "April In Paris" became codified.

Codification: when a solo is played almost exactly the same way on different recordings (or live), or when a recorded solo becomes well enough known to be orchestrated for either a section of the band or for the entire ensemble. You might call riffs 'mini-codifications.' 

Tommy Dorsey band's 1947 version of "Marie" features a well-known solo by Bunny Berigan (died in 1942) arranged for the entire trumpet section. (Starts at 1'36")

Orchestrated homages like "Marie" are well accepted as part of the arrangers art. However, while not quite a dirty little secret, soloists repeating worked out/famous solos is at least a bete noir; seen as not being in the spirit of continuously spontaneous creation that jazz people want to associate with this music. 

Is this the lingering aftershock of the Bop revolution, which moved jazz away from dance music and 'entertainment' into 'art' music?  In fact, the anti-commercialism aspect of jazz mythology predates the boppers by many years. In its 20's form it was a mythology much more driven by white jazz culture than black. i.e. "I have to play with this damned society band to make the bread but as soon as the gig is over I'm gonna go jam all night-hopefully, with some black musicians." (This dovetailed interestingly with the pressure record labels put on white bands to record "sweet" music and black bands to record "hot" even though, in practice, both colors played both kinds). 

That old devil commerciality, it was said, not only forced jazzers to play despised music, the money lust was such that bandleaders forced codified solos on reluctant musicians in order to mine every last gold shard from the vein opened up by a popular recording. 

Many possible areas of exploration open up: the 'hipness' factor in jazz and its place in the larger cultural context; the shifting/evolving relationship between that factor and the desire to please an audience (is a back-turning Miles a possible symbolic center of that shift?); the question of how much variation from melody-or from a previous solo-qualifies a performance as improvisatory. 

I invite readers to submit concrete examples of the process of codification as I have described it-or to cite other ways it has happened. Let's see how far back the process can be traced, examine contexts, compare examples and see what arises for further exploration. Tell me if you agree or disagree with the disreputability I say its reputation has acquired.
One of the Great Codifiers in jazz

You know, you can't write about Louis Armstrong, the man at the very top of the heap, without addressing codification. Give Thomas Brothers' recent book credit for doing that.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Chill Vocals, Pt. 2

My personal response to global warming; as heard on my show, the Duplex Mystery Jazz Hour, Thursday, July 3, 2014 on WZBC, 90.3, WZBC.ORG.

Listen Here.


Mark Murphy "On the Red Clay" (Jazz, 1975) on muse 
Count Basie "Whirlybird" from "At Birdland" (Jazz, 1960) on Emus  
June Christy "Something Cool"(Jazz, 1953) on Blue Note 
Duke Ellington & His Orchestra "Take the A Train" (Jazz, 1952) on Columbia 
Ella Fitzgerald "My Reverie" (Jazz, 1960) on Verve 
Chet Baker "Line for Lyons" (Jazz, 1956) on World Pacific 
Jack Teagarden "Don't Tell a Man About His Woman" from "Essential Jazz Vocals" (Jazz) on Verve 
Lee Wiley & Bobby Hackett "STREET of DREAMS" (Jazz, 1950) on Columbia 
Billy Eckstein "Caravan" (Jazz, 1949) on Verve 
Bob Dorough "Something for Sydney" (Jazz, 1997) on Blue Note 
Peggy Lee "That's the Way it Goes" (Jazz, 1941) on Columbia 
Louis Armstrong "Mack the Knife" (Jazz, 1955) on Columbia 
Billie Holliday "Fine And Mellow" (Jazz, 1939) on Commodore
King Pleasure "Golden Days" (Jazz, 1960) on Prestige 
Blossom Dearie "Surrey With The Fringe On The Top" (Jazz, 1958) on Verve 
Mel Torme and the MelTones "Hit the Road to Dreamland" (Jazz, 1959) on Verve 
Joe Williams "Hey Bartender" (Jazz, 1951) on Columbia 
Ella Fitzgerald "Blues in the Night" (Jazz, 1961) on Verve 
Lambert, Hendricks and Ross "Charleston Alley" (Jazz, 1959) on Columbia 
Mose Allison "Ever Since the World Ended" Jazz, 1997) on Blue Note 
Betty Carter "Some Other Time" (Jazz, 1993) on Capital Jazz 
Kurt Elling "Those Clouds Are Heavy, You Dig?" (Jazz, 2009) on Concord 
Vanessa Rubin "Black Coffee" (Jazz, 1995) on novus 
Mark Murphy "Canteloupe Island" (Jazz, 1960) on muse 
Chris Connor "Blue Silhouette" (Jazz, 1954) on Bethlehem 
Joe Williams "Who She Do" (Jazz, 1983) on Delos