Are standards covers?

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by Marc Piane, Mar 4, 2005.

  1. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    I have been playing jazz for about 15 years. I have never considered standards to be cover tunes. I've always considered the improv to be different every time as well arrangements to keep changing.

    I had a discussion with a rocker friend of mine and he was not satisfied with my reasons. He claims that the same can be said of some rock but they are still covering a tune. Thoughts?
  2. When I played rock, we always referred to "cover tunes" as songs that weren't "originals." Maybe that's changed over the years or it was a local thing....
  3. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    I don't understand what ya mean. Because we improvise on a composition, it's not considered a "cover"? can you rephrase it please...If we are defining "cover", well I guess it would mean playing a composition that you didn't write. Now if that piece has a melody and chords, and you improv over it - it does not make it yours IMO. Then again in jazz, many liberties are taken when playing tunes, and tunes are rewritten into others (same in blues), though it's mostly the chord changes and not the moelodies. Jazz guys are a bit more lax about it - When rock musicians do that, they end up in court ("He's So Fine" vs. "My Sweet Lord" a notable example)

    Is this what you meant?
  4. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004

    I guess it is really a discussion of terminology. I've just never heard any jazzer (including myself) thinking of what they do as 'covering tunes'.
  5. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    Probably because most Jazzmen play others' tunes, so it's kinda a standard thing - EVERYBODY covers tunes! You'll find realitevely few cats that play only their own stuff, especially straightahead or mainstream guys.

    Terminology. Language.

    You Say "Laid Off", I say "Fired".
    You say "passed away", I say "died"
    You Say "Kenny G", I say "Satan"
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    ALEXI - the rhythm changes thing is different and exactly why they DIDN'T end up in court. You can only copyright melody and lyrics, NOT harmonic progression. SO Bird would make up new melodies over common progressions (BIRD OF PARADISE = ALL THE THINGS, QUASIMODO=EMBRACEABLE etc.) which HE could then copyright.

    TOES - yer rocker buddy is kind of full of it. There are a number of rock bands out there that do take a composition by someone else and arrange it so that it doesn't sound like the original artist's rendition (like the Isley Brothers rendition of SUMMER BREEZE). But, by and large, a cover band tries to reproduce as closely as possible the "popular" rendition of a tune. Which would only be analogous if every time I played BYE BYE BLACKBIRD I played as close to the version that Miles' released on Columbia (not the LIVE FROM THE BLACK HAWK version) as I could, solos notwithstanding.
    He's either clueless or being wilfully stupid just to piss you off.
  7. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    aw, *****, yup that's go back and edit out that bit...
  8. brossmac


    Mar 1, 2005
    Camas, WA
    I think that this is related to the history of music in the last century and how the roles of composers & performers changed and morphed.

    For a long time, I think that composer and performer were different jobs. People who wrote music may have performed it (Cole Porter, etc.) but that was not their main focus. They wrote and others performed. Was Sinatra a cover artist? No. There wasn't any expectation that he would write his own songs (though he did do some).

    The turning point probably came in the early to mid sixties. I won't lay the change at the feet of The Beatles, but they certainly helped to propell the movement that melded performing and composing. Of course, they also started as a "cover" band before moving on to performing primarily their own compositions.

    Since then it's become de rigeur (in rock music anyway) that performers write their own songs. People tend to deride folks who don't write their own material. This is, of course, silly. Performing and writing are very different skills. Some can do one and not the other. Much more power to those that can do both!!!

    So are jazz standards covers? Not really. Jazz didn't really inherit the tradition of performers having to compose their own material. It is also because the pinnacle of jazz is really improvisation, and so composition is really placed at the service of improvisation.

    The idea of calling somebody a "cover band" is really meant to be derisive. The implication is that the band is not genuine and original.

    This doesn't happen so much in other art forms. If it did, every play would be a cover since most times the actors didn't write the material.

    So much for me being a blowhard....
  9. yeah - I'm off to see the City of Chicago Symphony Orchestra cover Mahler's 9th.
  10. Thee


    Feb 11, 2004
    San Luis Obispo, CA
    From the rocker's perspective, it is a cover, regardless of new arrangements or re-interpretations, but brossmac makes a good point with the jazz's particular tradition of composing being de-emphasized. Being called a "cover band" in this case really doesn't carry the same stigma, if there really is one, as if you were in regular rock outfit, I don't think. Just my perspective, as a rocker.
  11. Round this neck of the woods "covers" bands are those that get gigs for real money and get to do weddings, functions and if its a tribute band, whole ****in' stadiums. The rockers who do "original" material play dives for nothing and less to a narrow audience if they're lucky. Of course, some make it big but 99.9% suffer for their art. You can always score some dope and call it rock and roll if you like and become a tragic tortured artiste. I always tell them the jazzers got to it all first but I give the rockers more votes for hedonistic style.

    Folkies and jazzers aren't entirely imune from giving extra brownie points to original material even if its crap. And then some bands struggle to play a standard or a cover - well if you can't play the reportoire ...

    And bands here do get called "covers" bands and I don't think it carries shame for the reasons above - ie: they get paid :D and I think have a certain pride in dpulicating the chops demonstrated by their heros.
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    "the rocker's perspective" - yet once again I am reminded of ENTER THE DRAGON. "It's like a finger pointing at the moon. If you look only at the finger, you miss all of the heavenly glory."

    How is he at pouring piss out of a boot?
  13. "Cover" had a very distinct meaning at one point. I could ramble on about it, but I found a very good article on it in But just like anything else, somebody used the term wrong-but-close once, and somebody else took them at their word, and so on...
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