24 August 2022

Standards

There is a whole repertoire of popular song, largely dating from before Rock and Roll. We know them colloquially as the ‘Standards‘ or Jazz Standards. There is no formal definition, songs come and go over time. Even so, faced with a piece of music, most people, of my age anyway, would instinctively recognise a ‘standard’. It is I suppose a less academic version of the ‘canon’ in literature. Like the literary canon, standards tend to be Western. In fact, given the dominance of the American music industry from the 1920 onwards, it is almost entirely US music. It isn’t coincidence that another term in use is ‘The Great American Songbook.’

The most common usage I think tends to be in jazz. They provide a common core for improvisation. Given how widely they are performed, it is unsurprising that the ways they are performed varies widely, too. That’s understandable in instrumental jazz performances, but it applies to the vocal versions too. An earlier post included numerous versions of the song ‘You’ve changed’. That particular song isn’t in the list of Jazz Standards on Wikipedia, but it seems to qualify in my mind. I’m going to follow that up with more posts taking a particular song and the varying ways in which it is treated under the #musicmonday tag.

Do you have a favourite ‘standard’ or a favourite interpretation? I’d love to hear from you. Let me have your thoughts in the comments.

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