The history of jazz is filled with covers of the pop songs of the day. A few examples should suffice: Armstrong “Stardust”, Goodman “Sometimes I’m Happy”, Bird “Just Friends”, Miles “All Of You” in the ’50′s, “Time After Time” in the ’80′s, Coltrane ”My Favorite Things”, etc. etc. If jazz is to expand its audience, reach young people, and stay out of the museum, jazz musicians must deal with the times, and that means today’s pop music. I realize there’s a big obstacle in all this. Most pop tunes offer next to nothing in terms of melodic or harmonic interest. In other words, there’s not much substance for improvisation. In his liner notes for “Goodbye To Romance” (excellent CD, BTW), Alex Skolnik said he weeded out hundreds of rock songs in order to select the good ones, the ones that could be good jazz vehicles. Jazz musicians would have to improvise modally or drastically reharmonize today’s pop tunes in order to play them. But isn’t that what the boppers did with the pop tunes of their time? I say, Skolnik, Bad Plus, J. Redman, McBride, Dave Douglas, etc. have the right idea. Find the best pop yunes and play them, and use them as vehicles for great jazz.
Reprinted from Allablutjazz.com