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Discussion Starter #1
Why isn't this done more? Back in the day, a huge amount of Jazz tunes were conceived from pop tunes. Is it copy-right or an unwillingness to stray from common practice keeping Jazz composer and musicians from doing this? Listening to music in my car, I can hear in my head arrangements of several songs I listen to for the big band or combo that aren't gimmicks, but use of modern music and progressions for improvised music. I'm making it a project to write a big band arrangement of "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden. (Which I hear as a latin style for some reason lol.)

It'll take me a while, I'm just a highschool kid, but I've already developed and outlined how I'm going to write the chart and I say to you SOTW; why don't you do it too? Write a tune or chart based on pop, rock, or whatever and post it here for others to play! If it isn't anything but fun, still try if you feel interested. Who knows, we could start a revolution. : )
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Is it copy-right or an unwillingness to stray from common practice
It would not be an infringement of copyright to write a new tune based on the changes, but would be an infringement of copyright to post an arrangement of the actual tune, assuming there is a current copyright.
 

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Why isn't this done more?
Not sure exactly what it is you are saying isn't done anymore. As Pete pointed out, you can write a new melody on any given set of changes without infringing on a copyright. And that is what was done a lot 'back in the day.' If you mean taking a standard pop tune and playing it in a jazz style, that was also done back in the day, but in that case it wasn't passed off as a new composition. When Miles recorded 'Summertime,' he still called it 'Summertime' and the record company would have paid the appropriate royalties.

Musicians still compose tunes based on standard changes, or blues changes, etc. And of course they still play the standards. If you want to take a current pop tune and re-arrange it for big band, you are still playing that tune, not a new composition.
 

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As someone who's been around jazz for 20+ years - and came to jazz edcuation only late - I think your 2nd possibility is the right one. There IS an unwillingness to stray from common practice.

Jazz has become a semi-classical and academic music that doesn't feel proud of its pop roots. (One reason: pop changed a lot after rock came in. For years it was simple, youth and beat oriented.)

When you're a little older you will probably encounter the idea that jazz should be pure, and meet with resistance if you try to embrace music that the jazz community doesn't.

Nod politely and go do your own thing, then play it. Overdub your own sax quartet if you have to. The important thing is to always be as creative as you can - which is not necessarily what you will be taught!
 

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The problem is that the changes on newer pop songs are not really suited for improvising on.
 

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All of them? Wow.
 

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Tunes we call "Standards" and "Classics" have withstood the test of time and are still played and listened to years after they were composed. Modern standards is a bit of a contradiction in terms within this narrow definition. Many jazz arrangers have done arrangements of songs currently popular with the younger generation, mostly for the junior high and high school jazz ensemble market, but it remains to be seen if any of these tunes will take their place alongside the "Standards" as we know them.

That said, I think it is great that a high school student is interested in writing big band arrangements. That can't help but make you a better overall musician by what you learn writing and arranging tunes.
 

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There is a lot more to pop than popularity. Always was. Some stays obscure because it can't sell x number of units. Sometimes it's too good for the industry.

Some of the best indie rock stuff is quite creative and eclectic - not that I could mine it for ideas, but someone who grew up in that bag surely could.

Every kind of music seems limited and stereotyped until you get into it. Some turn out to be that way. Some turn out to be anything but.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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The problem is that the changes on newer pop songs are not really suited for improvising on.
It all depends on what you call "newer". Newer than the tin pan alley standards would include songs such as "Isn't She Lovely" which Sonny Rollins improvised on.

Mind there isn't much he couldn't improvise on.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
The problem is that the changes on newer pop songs are not really suited for improvising on.
You'd be surprised, actually. You'd also be surprised what you can do to changes and how you can completely change melodies because you impose new changes on them. It's disappointing to me that the great sax players of today aren't always trying to take ideas from greats of other musical genres. I don't just mean pop, but with incredibly progressive bands in rock, alternative, and metal, the chord changes start to get "sophisticated." (or at least they sound this way with the ideas they employ)

It's been stated before, I'm sure, but Jazz isn't going to progress by stagnating in old ideas. As far as I'm concerned, Jazz stopped moving at all after the fusion period and, like paulwl stated, it's become to academic. I think Jazz has a doctrine that SHOULD be taught, but for professors and players to not try to move on bothers me.

I'm sure you guys have heard some of these groups before, but Alice in Chains, *to an extent* Soundgarden, Opeth, and Radiohead are examples of rock/metal groups that have sophistication, emotion, and can be an influence to musicians of any genre. They've certainly made my ears more receptive to ideas, but maybe it's because I'm just an amateur.
 

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Radiohead lends itself to jazz performance incredibly well.

EDIT: Holy crap! I said something nice about Radiohead!
 

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It always bugs me when people think that the more complex the chord changes, the more "jazz" it is. If you're a good improviser, you can make interesting improvisations over 1 chord. Modern pop and rock songs are quite good material for jazz improvisation. You're only limited by your imagination.
 

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We're to a point, I would think, where knowing your scales
- is an acceptable substitute for imagination, or
- is more important than imagination, or
- is imagination.
 

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I suppose it depends on which type of pop tunes you're listening to. Off the cuff, I'd say a lot of recent pop tunes don't have the best chord progressions for playing as jazz, or at least in a bop/post-bop style. But having said that, pop tunes used by beboppers were routinely re-harmonized by adding 2-5's, altered extensions, tritone subs, etc. So, if there's a tune you're really interested in trying to "jazz-up," have at it. Like MartinMusicMan said, just don't assume that by adding complexity you'll be jazzing it up appropriately. Some of the best jazz is/was deceptively simple.

One reason, I think, that the "old ideas" keep getting re-done is because those ideas were SO good, and so timeless (that's why they've become 'standards'). I've been listening to old Chet Baker recently and, man, I genuinely ENJOY listening, it gives me a smile every time. The ideas, the tone, the groove...
 

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We're to a point, I would think, where knowing your scales
- is an acceptable substitute for imagination, or
- is more important than imagination, or
- is imagination.
If that's true, it's very sad.
 

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It always bugs me when people think that the more complex the chord changes, the more "jazz" it is. If you're a good improviser, you can make interesting improvisations over 1 chord. Modern pop and rock songs are quite good material for jazz improvisation. You're only limited by your imagination.
You've just become the youngest old man I can think of... keep it up, man. You're my hero!
 

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It always bugs me when people think that the more complex the chord changes, the more "jazz" it is. If you're a good improviser, you can make interesting improvisations over 1 chord. Modern pop and rock songs are quite good material for jazz improvisation. You're only limited by your imagination.
Try and improvise a trane flavored solo over the "electric slide" and see how the band leader likes it. :)
 
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