Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cover Up, Cause I Ain't Playing No Covers...

I'm about at my wits end with being expected to be content playing non-original music.  Don't get me wrong: I love the cover band concept.  It brings together people and genres and all that great feel-good party time stuff.  I play in a great bar band that does mostly covers and people love it.  But, guess what: When the leader breaks out his half dozen originals people like those songs just as much, if not more, then the cover material.  The problem is that no one wants to write anymore.  The creativity is gone from music.

I lead my own group that does a lot of originals and some covers.  Mostly swing and New Orleans covers.  When I say "Lets do this song" the general reaction is "Send me a YouTube link".  I refuse to.  If we, as talented musicians, want to perform non-original material it sure as hell better not sound anything like the original version.  The horn part better be different.  The bridge should have different chords.  The phrasing of the vocals better be unique to the band performing.   

But, my God, if I come across another college age "j***" group who is performing Radiohead or Sound Garden I'm gonna slash their tires.  Just because the songs got  your through your teenage years without successfully killing yourself doesn't mean they are good.

If I see one more set-list that has a great song by Hoagy Carmichael or Cole Porter, but after the title it says "Norah Jones" or "Rod Stewart" within parentheticals I will walk out of the rehearsal.

Those versions belong to that artist.  I do not want someone else recording my reharm of "Days of Wine and Roses" just as I assume Herbie doesn't want someone to release an album of his reworking of "Round Midnight".  They are great learning tools but they have no place in a live set.  What I think is okay is referencing a feel or timbre when working on something new or an interpretation of something old.  Telling the drummer to "Think of a Chuck Brown beat" or describing the attack of Basie's brass section are totally fine.  But don't you dare hand me a chart that says "As recorded by..." at the top.  A good friend of mine is a killer piano-bar type musician and he loves it.  I could never sit doing what he does and I have the utmost respect for his talent, because unlike most others who do the same thing, he refuses to completely bow to the Billy Joel requests all night.  What he does do is creatively arranges.  I once heard him sing a beautiful ballad that I thought was a standard I had never heard of.  But this guy (who is a decade+ older than me) had reworked a Katie Perry song.  A song that was a two chord vamp now had enough changes to make Chick Corea blush.  Hats off to him, because he made a not great song great.

Now there are countless musicians out in the world and I wish all of them success.  But when I'm ask to join a new group I will let it be known that I will not be interested in performing already established material.  I want to be a part in establishing the material.

The world would be a better place with less rehashing and more creating.

Lets do something new.

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