Interview: Will Friedwald (Part 2) - JazzWax

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November 03, 2010


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Mel House

Loved the Will Friedwald interview...he certainly has a way of saying things that make you stop and think!


Friedwald makes some valid points, but by way of a lot of broad generalizations. Pop music since 1960 runs the gamut from artists whose music and/or lyrics were a vehicle for personal expression, to professional songwriters churning out songs with hooks for singers with looks.
Gary Giddens did a good piece on Kay Starr in which she talks about wanting to sing jazz but not being allowed to by the big record companies. Like Rosemary Clooney she experienced a career revival when a couple of really corny songs that she was forced to record became big hits.


incredibly popular...or incredibly influential
What about incredibly good? Because that isn't neither necessarily related. Let's say Jack Jones.


Kay Starr's style here reminds me very strongly on Dinah Washington's soulful, though always kinda ironic, sometimes even sarcastic way of interpreting the good old warhorses like "Baby Won't You Please Come Home".

By singing this song that way, Kay came home indeed.

Love it!

Allen Lowe

actually, I think the songwriter as single component shift occurred well before the 1960s - think Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lonnie Johnson, Ernest Trubb, Jimmie Rodgers, many others, and just in another realm from what we, as jazz people, tend to recognize -
-Allen Lowe

Steve Provizer

Hmmm: "They use higher intervals—ninths and beyond—which open up a wide range of harmonic possibilities." If he meant intervals, then it would be WIDER intervals. Since the intervals you use in a melody may or may not be related to the harmony, I assume he means chord _extensions_. The only blanket way you can apply this notion is to reference folk compositions and the majority of rock or blues songs. Composers working after 1960 did not jettison the use of chard extensions.

Also, let's not forget the role jazz played in transforming songs that were originally performed in what we would now call a rhythmically stiff, over-vibrattoed style. I address this in my last blog post,"Jazz 911: Rescuing the Great American Songbook"

Steve Provizer

---and don't we all love chard extensions.

Allen Lowe

higher intervals is fine, actually is more accurate terminology - as in higher in relation to the tonic - he wasn't talking about melodic jumps relative to each other, but the space between the root of the chord and the melody note. So he's correct.


Thanks for your blog, Marc. I've been seriously interested in jazz/pop singing for about a year and a half, through wondering who else sang various songs Julie London recorded. First singer to really capture my attention thusly was Chris Connor - thanks especially for your great interview with here. It was strange to discover her music a month after she died, too.

Will seems to become more accomodating/thoughtful over the years; in his first book he really lets his vitriol fly. I notice that he seems to suddenly discover artists are worth mentioning after all - in the past he seems to have been dismissive of Bobby Short and Jeri Southern, for instance, now they seem to make the grade. Don't know how he's missed out on Dionne Warwick - those are some quite wide intervals in Burt's music, along with very unorthodox harmonies, rhythms, arrangements. Seems pretty sophisticated to my dull ear.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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