“Do You Know …?”The Jazz Repertoire in Action

“Do You Know …?”The Jazz Repertoire in Action

Robert R. Faulkner and Howard S. Becker

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226239217

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Every night, somewhere in the world, three or four musicians will climb on stage together. Whether the gig is at a jazz club, a bar, or a bar mitzvah, the performance never begins with a note, but with a question. The trumpet player might turn to the bassist and ask, “Do you ‘Body and Soul?’”—and from there the subtle craft of playing the jazz repertoire is tested in front of a live audience. This book presents the view from the bandstand, revealing the array of skills necessary for working musicians to do their jobs. While learning songs from sheet music or by ear helps, the jobbing musician's lexicon is dauntingly massive: hundreds of thousands of tunes, from jazz classics and pop standards, to more exotic fare. Since it is impossible for anyone to memorize all of these songs, the book shows that musicians collectively negotiate and improvise their way to a successful performance. Players must explore each other's areas of expertise, develop an ability to fake their way through unfamiliar territory, and respond to the unpredictable demands of their audience. The book dishes out stories and insights drawn from the authors' own experiences and observations, as well as interviews with a range of musicians. The authors' detailed portrait of the musician at work holds lessons for anyone who has to think on the spot or under a spotlight.