Pop songwriter Jimmy Webb talks jazz

May 26th, 2019

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Jimmy Webb

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…..The songwriter Jimmy Webb – best known for songs like “Wichita Lineman,” “Up, Up and Away,” “Galveston,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “MacArthur Park” – has collaborated over the years with pop artists like Glen Campbell, Linda Ronstadt, Joe Cocker, The Everly Brothers, Willie Nelson, Art Garfunkel, and The 5th Dimension.  But jazz musicians also revere his music – for example, the singer Cassandra Wilson and the guitarist Pat Metheny are among those who have recorded his songs.

…..In an April 28, 2019 post on Jazz Journal, journalist Mark Gilbert talks with Webb about his love for jazz music, and where it intersects with country music.

…..In this brief excerpt from the excellent interview, Gilbert asks Webb, “Do you think country music has anything to do with jazz?”

…..“Well, I’ll tell you this: My father’s favourite band, and an almost overly familiar sound around our house was Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, which they used to call Western Swing. Western Swing was nothing more or less than jazz. There are still bands around, like Asleep At The Wheel, paying homage to that West Texas style. Those old bands could play, and the fact that they’re riffing on steel guitars, which are notoriously awkward and difficult to play, and playing very fluid solos is quite marvellous.

…..“And you know, Glen Campbell comes to mind. He was such a highly accomplished virtuoso on guitar, and his favourite player and his inspiration was Django Reinhardt. It’s very hard to hear him play and not hear him occasionally quoting Django Reinhardt. He had a big painting of Django over the fireplace in his house.

…..“So yes, I think there are touchstones between jazz and country music. They don’t seem on the surface to be the same thing at all, because jazz in America has always been a very down, cool and mostly coastal New York and LA thing and it’s also been a left-leaning thing. And country music has been more of a right-leaning thing. The styles of the music are quite different in their pure state with this one notable exception, which is that improvisation is held in high regard in both jazz and country music. Players gain reputations and become legends in country music for their ability to negotiate the fretboard and to play quickly and come up with a good lick. Those two things are quite highly prized in both African-American influenced and country music.”

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Click to read the entire interview

 

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