“Paul Bley loves standards. They are of great compositions, and since I love them too, we ended up playing standards. “
Lee Konitz, “Conversazioni sull’arte dell’improvvisatore” Andy Hamilton, p. 227
I believe that in each musical style exist some songs that define and “dictate” the boundaries of a repertoire, a style … even a musical attitude.
A classical guitarist can not fail to interpret songs like Asturias and Recuerdos de la Alahmbra, a blues guitarist must know Hoochie Coochie Man or Catfish Blues, a rock guitarist have to study things like Heartbreaker or Whola Lotta Love, and so on. We call them “classics”, they have marked a style calling and represent a common ground on which musicians can play and compete togheter: these are part of their vocabulary from which they can then try to move away, but that is impossible to refuse “a priori”.
And jazz musicians? The jazz musicians have standards. Standard is meant for a well known musical theme that over time has become a jazz classic. Originally they were simple songs written by composers in different circumstances (for Broadway and for its musicals) and for various musical and theatrical works, which eventually entered the musical heritage of all the musicians, going well beyond their time because their timeless musical ideas and the continuing executions. Standards are very important for the formation and maturation of a jazz artist as each performer repeats its version of a song by changing according to their taste and their musical vision harmony, melody and rhythm, often totally changing a song.
How are they different from the compositions and the covers played by classical and rock musicians? It seems to me that the main difference is in the fact that standards are one of the most interesting responses to defined positions against popular music defined by the musical aesthetic of Adorno. If the standards are born as a perfect product of the music industry, under carefull attentiona Tin Pan Alley’s “laboratories”, through jazz reinterpretations they move away from the machine assembly mechanisms of popular music to become something else: a very personal medium of expression able to extend the creativity of musicians to the limit, to the ends of the avanguard.
It seems to me that this might be one of the way to read (and listen to) this recent work by Harvey Valdes, called the Roundabout, entirely dedicated to standards. Curious and very original Guitarist in between jazz, funk and oud’s melodies, on this record he explores and investigates the possibility of classics like All The Things You Are, How Deep Is The Ocean, Blue In Green, Stella by Starlight, In Your Own Sweet Way, Alone Together, I’ll Remember April, Invitation and You Stepped Out Of A Dream. He does it with a lot of respect, but also unafraid to re-read this music so different and innovative, using sound and a technique absolutely clean and without snagging. The result is one of the most interesting musical interpretations of recent times and, at the same time, a disc absolutely pleasant, intimate and suspended. Five stars for the wonderful versions of All The Things You Are and Stella by Starlight, alone are worth buying the CD.