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Title: Tal Farlow and the American popular songbook : an exploration of Tal Farlow's music, as exemplary of the place of jazz improvisation, within the established discipline of taking popular tunes as the basis for improvised performance
Author: Wright, Michael Joseph
ISNI:       0000 0004 6060 4527
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2016
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Talmage Holt 'Tal' Farlow (1921–1998), American jazz guitarist, is only mentioned briefly in general jazz histories but his exceptional talent meant that he worked from the mid-1940s at the heart of the New York's modern jazz world. His repertoire for such creative and virtuosic music drew upon a surprisingly narrow range of sources; the 'imaginary' American Popular Songbook was at his playing's core, alongside his own and other jazz artists’ compositions. However, his radical approach to such familiar-sounding material was that of a true 20th century artist, and the various connections between jazz and Modernism are scrutinised here. Close readings, transcriptions, comparisons, and analyses of Farlow's approach to this music allows us to examine the place of jazz improvisation within the established discipline of taking popular tunes as the basis for improvised performance, and his performances of three 'jazz standard' songs are transcribed in full. Another chapter explores Johnny Green's song, 'Body and Soul': Farlow's fascination with this standard illustrates well his harmonic innovations. Two solo guitar performances of this song are transcribed in the appendices. A considerable amount of Farlow-related film material and recordings exist alongside his catalogue of commercially released recordings (1945–1997). Furthermore, in the 1980s and early 1990s I had the privilege of meeting this modest and affable musical genius several times, attending fifteen memorable concerts by Farlow during several UK tours. These resources and experiences offer other insights into his fascinating and complex playing techniques. A recognised virtuoso on the electric guitar, Farlow's guitar style and its extended techniques are examined in a technical chapter. Finally, Farlow's compositions are considered: his original themes are only a small percentage of his output but these offer interesting comparisons of composer and jazz improviser, highlighting the common ground between original compositions, contrafacts, and the Songbook.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available