George Gershwin and Jazz Standards

By Antonio Cabrero

An interesting approach to a concert tribute to George Gershwin is to use the piano solo, since that was Gershwin’s instrument and all of his compositions originate there. It is also significant to set his superb piano music among the best piano music written at that time or later—most of it influenced by him. This music now widely referred to as “Jazz Standards” deserves a better description, like “Golden Era Immortal Pieces of Music,” or “Music Jewels of the USA,” or “Best Non-standard Jazz Pieces Ever” to describe the music that now deserves concert arrangements and concert performances.

Solo Piano Concert:
George Gershwin and Jazz Standards
Sat, Jan 31, 6pm
Teatro Ángela Peralta
350/250/150 pesos at Teatro Ángela Peralta, La Biblioteca, and La Conexión Aldama

George Gershwin can be credited with many songs or piano pieces that are in this category, but what sets Gershwin apart is his double identity in music in general, and in his music in particular; he is constantly alternating two opposite and contrasting tendencies that make up his unique style. On the one hand he recreates the old blues song spirit of despair and melancholy, incorporating ragtime and honky-tonk piano styles for happier moments, all of this swimming happily in the oceans of jazz and improvisation he knew so well. On the other hand (probably the right hand), he was seeking to be a classical, symphony, and opera composer. With great craftsmanship he manages to remind himself of these aspirations and even in a single phrase sometimes one can tell how abruptly he brings classical order to exuberant jazzy rapports, only to drift back to his homeland folklore a few bars later.

As a result of all this, and without meaning to, he created the link between jazz and classical music that was to provide classical composers like Stravinsky and Ravel with fresh inspiration, and a contribution that was to be fundamental in dignifying jazz, establishing it as one of the most important music styles of modern times.

I take the opportunity in this concert to introduce my own arrangements of 10 of my favorite jazz standards, along with the immortal music of George Gershwin, including Rhapsody in Blue and selections from Porgy and Bess.


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