A Bandleader's Little Helper

IMG_0825I would love to know where this fake book came from. Who compiled it, and who pressed it? I distinctly remember buying my first copy of this book. It was at a music store in Easton, Pennsylvania, where I went to high school. After I had bought dozens of pieces of sheet music one by one, the store owner discreetly took me aside and said, “You might be interested in one of these.” It was the blue 1000 Standard Tunes (Chicago edition). It saved my life. And in some ways made a large part of my career as a gigging musician possible.
But it was a completely illegal book! There is no publisher listed, or any information at all, for that matter. The songs are arranged by tempo and style. There are indeed a thousand of them, and nearly every one helped me along the way. “Daddy’s Little Girl” got me through hundreds of wedding receptions. And that weird E7 chord that is so perfect in “Georgia On My Mind”—how long would I have played that wrong without this trusty book?  The list of songs in the table of contents is the very definition of the Great American Songbook.
Sometime in the 1970’s, I became aware of The Real Book and its many iterations thereafter. Compiled by students at the Berklee College of Music, it was supposed to be so much hipper than the grimy fake book I schlepped from gig to gig. But the reality is that the most of the songs in The Real Book are forgettable jazz numbers, and even the standards have been re-harmonized, taking all the interesting quirky changes out of the beautifully written originals. It is a pity that so many musicians are learning these songs via “Real Book changes” rather than from the original harmonies.
As a rule, I argue for all songwriters’ rights. I hate the larcenous Spotify and rail against illegal downloading. But for some reason, this little blue bit of thievery holds a warm place in my heart. Thank you to whoever put this thing together and made a world of great music available to me.
 

Choc'late Soldiers from the USA

I am just now finishing the score for a PBS film for director Noel “Sonny” Izon. It is called Choc’late Soldiers from the USA, after a World War II-era Australian song. Sonny got some great interviews with African American World War II vets, who told him about the astonishing experience of serving in countries like England, where they were treated with the same hospitality—and where they had the same rights—as their white countrymen. Maybe the most interesting insight in this terrific film is the suggestion that these soldiers’ experience of equality abroad is what later sparked the Civil Rights movement at home. The score features strings and a fabulous solo trumpet performance by the very talented Vince McCool.

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