Francis Davis, who monitors developments on the outer edge, writes in this week’s Village Voice about the avant garde tenor saxophonist David S. Ware’s new CD of standard ballads. Davis suggests that Ware may be playing to an audience for whom classics by Kern, Gershwin, Porter and other popular song writers of the first half of the last century have no meaning.
…who under the age of 50 has the lyrics to those songs going through his or her head now? Standards figure in the marketplace today largely as a way of letting aging rock stars play dress-up, and I often find myself having to explain to younger people what I even mean by the word.
The only remaining incentive for a jazz instrumentalist to do standards–the best reason all along–is what they have to offer harmonically.
That seems reason enough. It is interesting to learn from Davis that the adventurous clarinetist Andy Biskin has reached back even further than Ware and recorded an album of songs by Stephen Foster. Since Dave Brubeck in his 1959 album Southern Scene (out of print), few jazz musicians have recognized the improvisational possiblities in Foster’s songs. To read Davis’s Voice column, go here.