My definition of "standards" has been pretty changeable throughout the year. It seems like I'm just fickle and inconsistent, but the truth is, I've mostly been sticking to the styles of music I'm most likely to run into in my work life. For most of this year, I've gravitated toward pop, rock and r&b, because my most embarrassing work moments are when I'm playing auditions for some rock or r&b based musical, and I'm not familiar with the material the singers are bringing in. I recognize song titles, and can maybe think of a snippet of the song, but don't actually know the feel or how I should play it on the piano. The piano arrangements are useless - the notes they write for the piano part will absolutely not sound good if played as written: they don't write in any of the accents that any good pop player will instinctively include, and the notes themselves are sometimes suspect, especially in the arrangements of R&B stuff that include the vocal line in the piano arrangement. It's better to stick to the chords and play the "feel"... but to do that, you have to, um, know how. Which I didn't, at the beginning of the year. I wouldn't call myself an R&B master now, but at least I can sort of play a groove if I am familiar with the song or the artist. So now I complain less about crappy piano arrangements, and more about snot-nosed classical snobs who don't know what they don't know (formerly known as: me).
This is all to say, that's why I've been doing a lot of pop and R&B for most of the year, as opposed to 32-bar jazz standards and show tune favorites. I think I subconsciously expected to gravitate more toward those songs when I began this project. But the subconscious urge to be mortified at work less often trumped the traditional definition of the word "standard", and I think my personal definition has evolved to something like:
standard, n.: a song I'm likely to run into in the course of my work, which would be slightly embarrassing not to be able to play by heart, and absolutely humiliating to not at least know of and be able to sort-of-fake
Now I'm working more with some traditional musical theater auditions and the late-night cabaret circuit, and it's more useful to know show tunes and jazz standards, which is why I've been going back to that territory more often. ...But I don't want to lose my groove, because we all know how hard it is to get that thang back. So I'm learning a little James Brown this weekend - "I Got You (I Feel Good)" today, and planning on "Get up Offa That Thing" tomorrow. I'm looking at these as an accompanist - not gonna try to play the melody. How would I accompany a singer on this, say in an audition situation? (Is it possible I'm finally learning to look for how to make the best use of my time!??)
I'm trying to do two-song days today and tomorrow, so I'll practice switching feel-gears by doing contrasting songs: "If I Loved You" tonight, and maybe "Embraceable You" tomorrow. A little more ebb and flow in the pulse, a little more like classical music in the accents and articulations. It's like switching back and forth between languages - it is, in fact, switching back and forth between languages.
I finally brought my Super-Nerdy Spreadsheet up to date the other night, and I still have to make up six songs from the Dark Days. Then there's the fact that I will be leaving for Japan just before Christmas to see my sister... I will actually lose a day going over there, but I still feel like it's kinda cheating not to learn a song for that day. And while I'm there, I'm gonna want to hang out with my sister and her family, not slave away at the keyboard, feverishly learning my last few songs... so I want to do some of the prep here.
Well anyway. One thing at a time. Recent songs (apologies for not staying up-to-date with the blog - have been doing more journaling, which requires zero editing as opposed to the minimal once-over I give these before I post): "Stand By Me", "Lean On Me", "All You Need Is Love", "Mack the Knife".
Back to James Brown. Groove now, worry later. Or maybe not.