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Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the by Ken Emerson

By Ken Emerson

Throughout the past due Fifties and early Nineteen Sixties, after the surprise of Elvis Presley and ahead of the Beatles spearheaded the British Invasion, fourteen talented younger songwriters huddled in midtown Manhattan's mythical Brill construction and a warren of places of work a section farther uptown and composed one of the most beguiling and enduring entries within the nice American Songbook. Always Magic within the Air is the 1st thorough heritage of those popular songwriters-tunesmiths who melded black, white, and Latino sounds, built-in audiences ahead of the USA desegregated its faculties, and taken a brand new social cognizance to pop music.

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Additional resources for Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era

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Spend a day auditioning students for a jazz program, and you will no longer believe that all phrases are created equal. At this rudimentary level of performance, the musicians tend to rely repeatedly on a small number of rhythmic patterns in their phrases. Even if the notes they play are different, the rhythmic structures of the phrases are often identical. Such improvisers might sound convincing for a single chorus, but if the solo goes on long enough, even novice listeners will perceive an inescapable monotony in the proceedings.

We won’t ignore the technical parameter in these pages—they inevitably come to the forefront in some subjects, for example, in any discussion of jazz harmony or compositional structure. indd 41 2/25/16 12:05 PM 42 HOW TO LISTEN TO JAZZ the jazz idiom is accessible to anyone willing to approach it with patience and open ears. In fact, the deepest aspect of jazz music has absolutely nothing to do with music theory. Zero. Zilch. This bedrock layer of improvisation, almost beyond the scope of musicology, is the psychology or personality of the individual musician.

On the other extreme—and I know this, once again, from painful personal experience—when the band’s rhythmic cohesion is floundering, each individual in the group is tempted to overplay. This is almost a matter of instinct. It’s no different from a second-rate basketball team: when they fail to operate together as a unit, individuals forget the plays, and everyone starts freelancing and going one-on-one. In a band as on the field of play, lots of activity is no substitute for skilled execution. As you apply these listening strategies, you will find that you are gauging yourself as much as the music.

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