I did a little research into the history of it, then found out other
people were already working on it, and dropped it. But I made a blog
post on the history and culture of jazz and the Real Book.
I'd be delighted to get any comments or critiques
Very nice. Thanks for sharing!
Hey thanks - looking forward to reading it.
I'm pretty sure there were more than two people involved in making
this book, which I gather from talking to friends who were at Berklee
at the time.
I was a Berklee student at the time when the real book came out.
I was a Pat Metheny student and a Gary Burton groupie.
The Real Book started out as a compilation of the lead sheets in Gary
Burton's file cabinet that were recopied and binded together by two
Berklee students, probably Mitch Coodley and Stu Balcomb both of whom
used to have original tunes in the original Real Book.
I'm pretty sure that I was the first guy to sell TRB in Toronto.
I photocopied 20 copies at the U of T library and walked around the
halls of Humber College in a trench-coat asking "Anybody wanna buy a
joegold AT primus DOT ca
My only critique regards your critique of "The Man I Love":
> The orig虹要al is cloy虹ng and larded with Broad趴ay cutsey-poo: the
> repeat虹ng open虹ng motif, with its child衍ike sing-song, infan負ilizes
> the singer.
You seem to be carping that Broadway performances doesn't sound sound
like jazz performances. That's certainly true. Two different genres
have a interesting ways of distinguishing themselves. You don't
provide the orchestral interlude for the Broadway version, but do
provide the Lester Young solo. From a musician's standpoint these
interludes were frequently quite interesting.
So are you comparing two genres here for an illustrative effect?
Without Billie Holiday's backstory I don't really *hear* irony in her
performance; nor violence among larger males, the politics of the
bordello or a hard life hard-lived. But since I do know that about
Holiday I hear a poignancy regarding love as true salvation, a
prostititue might understand much better than the average shopgirl.
One could logically refer to stylistically accurate jazz as being
"larded with jazz cutsey-poo, superfluous ornamentation, faux-serious
obscure doodlings, complexamafies the singer."
Me, I think "The Man I Love" is an absolutely brilliant composition
with an equally brilliant lyric. So mucy for a difference of opinion
Going back to the Real Book: I think it's also worth nothing that it
strips the introductory section ("verse" as they once called it, "the
vest" in Ira Gershwin quip) from all those ballads. As such they were
never played by those who used the book. Admittedly many of these are
shlock and were written to move the actor out of the narrative,
frequently physically out to the apron where they would then deliver
the song as seen as useful by the Real Book.
Not only do I like the vests, including the lesser ones, for the way
they ease one end to a solo, but it also brings a musical opportunity
for creativity in performance. This was then replaced by a count-off.
And I find I like a lot of those "vests", since the Sher Books began
providing the entire compositions. I realize they copyists found them
unnecessary, as did musicians in years prior. Perhaps they found those
four bars of Desafinado superfluous too! :-)
Finally, there is much mention made of how much was included by Burton,
the Bleys, Swallow, Gibbs and others. I think it sold a cache of their
albums; it sold them to me, anyway. Much of this came to nothing in the
real perspective of encouraging performance, though. On the other hand,
quite a few of us became complete Shorter and Jobim zealots as a direct
result of these books. I noted these names were not cited. But these
compositions I did perform and heard others perform. And in the end I
bought as much product by both as I could get my hands on.
> On 12/8/2010 10:34 AM, momalle3 wrote:
>> I've always liked "The Real Book," In spite of its flaws. For me it
>> was a gateway into the language of jazz. It's a pretty unique
>> phenomenon--spontaneously adopted worldwide with no advertising or
>> corporate hoodoo. Even the mistakes are interesting
>> I did a little research into the history of it, then found out other
>> people were already working on it, and dropped it. But I made a blog
>> post on the history and culture of jazz and the Real Book.
>> I'd be delighted to get any comments or critiques
> I was a Berklee student at the time when the real book came out.
> I was a Pat Metheny student and a Gary Burton groupie.
> The Real Book started out as a compilation of the lead sheets in Gary
> Burton's file cabinet that were recopied and binded together by two
> Berklee students, probably Mitch Coodley and Stu Balcomb both of whom
> used to have original tunes in the original Real Book.
> I'm pretty sure that I was the first guy to sell TRB in Toronto.
> I photocopied 20 copies at the U of T library and walked around the
> halls of Humber College in a trench-coat asking "Anybody wanna buy a
> fake book?".
I had to drive from Dallas to North Texas State Unversity (now renamed
University of North Texas so that their radio station call letters are
unprintable). I snooped around the call board in one of the music
buildings, called a guy and he brought me one. I drove back to Dallas
feeling like I had a kilo of pot in the trunk.
No one has yet mentioned explicitly that the "Spaces" books worked as a
model of sorts for The Real Book. Many of those tunes were simply
copied in an expanded and legible hand and onto a single page for
actual performance. They, of course, whittled out a lot of unusable
stuff, substituted more tunes by the local crew.
Though I didn't care at the time, I wish they'd have spent a bit more
time culling some of the cool jazz/west coast jazz that was floating
around in fake books of the time as well. But it had lost it's panache,
apparently, in Boston. Perhaps because unlike most of the "Blue Note
Uber Alles" approach which came to dominate, they had significant
I can only imagine that Shorty Rogers and Gerry Mulligan would be more
iconic and performed by now, had they included their tunes. Oddly, in
the past 5 or 6 years that stuff is some of my favorite, including Dave
Pell, Al Cohn, Lee Konitz, Terry Gibbs and especially Bob Brookmeyer.
On the taste question, sure, it's a subjective taste judgment, and I
agree Billie Holiday is really "mannered." Her version of April in
Paris is awful: it might as well be David Sedaris singing it. I wanted
the blog post to have something for musicians, but also to speak to
people who don't really know anything about jazz or even really about
music. That being dais, yeah, I like jazz more than broadway.
The thing that's not in my post, because I thought it was getting too
long, is the way the Real Book reflects the "academification" of jazz,
which is mixed bag IMHO. I'm glad musicians can get good teaching
gigs, and I'm an academic myself: I believe in it. But it tends to
Maybe the Real Book represents a transitional moment, from jazz as an
oral tradition taught and passed down in practice to jazz as "jazz
> When I was researching this a lot of people mentioned the "spaces"
> book. It's in Kernfeld's book, which is really quite good.
> On the taste question, sure, it's a subjective taste judgment, and I
> agree Billie Holiday is really "mannered." Her version of April in
> Paris is awful: it might as well be David Sedaris singing it.
Good one! He does a marvelous impersonation. I wasn't really carping
about Ms Holiday, so much as defending Broadway as something other than
a kind of "inferior jazz".
> I wanted the blog post to have something for musicians, but also to speak to
> people who don't really know anything about jazz or even really about
> music. That being dais, yeah, I like jazz more than broadway.
> The thing that's not in my post, because I thought it was getting too
> long, is the way the Real Book reflects the "academification" of jazz,
> which is mixed bag IMHO.
You should consider including that. That's a notable consideration.
> I'm glad musicians can get good teaching gigs, and I'm an academic
> myself: I believe in it. But it tends to
> codify things.
If you were around when Spaces and other previous endlessly xerox'd
books, codifying certainly had its valuable qualities! Particularly
chord-naming/notating conventions, four bars to the line, and other
aspects. It provided a lingua franca among musicians of otherwise quite
> Maybe the Real Book represents a transitional moment, from jazz as an
> oral tradition taught and passed down in practice to jazz as "jazz
Or a merging of the two. I know that the setting in which I used the
Real Book initially was all people trying to learn to play jazz or play
jazz better. As a result in such sessions I got a lot of "oral
tradition" along with the point of reference, The Real Book.
Geez man. It's just a fakebook.
This from a guy who can write 500 words on a single chord sub. Dude,
it's just two notes! :)
Yeah, but I don't wax on about the cultural importance of those 2 notes.
You were at Berklee in '76!!! WOW what program? I graduated in '79.
Mus Ed but by then I didn't want to teach in public school!! : )
I loved bumblebee bookstore.... damn i miss that place!
I bought my real book on the street. I remember there were guys
hanging around with boxes of copies.
My copy is a fifth edition I'm guessing I bought it about 1975
For those interested in this from a historical sense I wonder when the
first (edition) one came out.
I was there from 77-80. Got my copy from "Copy Cops" copy center.
Still have my 5th edition.
At the risk of turning this into a Berklee thread, a friend of mine
sent me this link, which I guess sort describes his experience there.
I can't say it was anything like what is portrayed in this vid to my
knowledge when I was there. Interesting....
Joey, please! When you're busted--totally busted--just laugh with us
and move on!
I was performance. But left pretty quickly and applied all my credits
to Emerson College down the street and became a filmmaker with a music
minor! Funny thing though. I'm still doing both things.
I was there from '78 till August '80 (went through 6 semesters in 2
calendar years so that I could finish before my money ran out).
I loved Bumblebee! Unfortunately, it closed (around 1990 I think). I
was at the school for some kind of 10 year alumni bash, and the place
was emptied out and whatever books he had left were all lined up in
cardboard boxes on the sidewalk. I didn't really have space in my
suitcase to carry stuff home, but it was starting to rain and I grabbed
some bizarre fake book that I'd never seen before (or since). I'm
guessing the rest of the stuff out there just got soaked.
You went to Emerson? So did my first wife (R.I.P.) She and her friend
used to both work as barmaids at Frankandsteins on the corner of Mass
Ave and Newbury (I think, I'm looking at Google Maps and can't recognize
anything there anymore, Looks like there's a Best Buy there now). I
didn't have a tv when I was in school, and I remember you could get a
card for about $5 and go there to watch movies on Friday night.
I started teaching myself jazz piano in the 70's armed with nothing
but a real book, mehegans books (which were useless to me then, too
advanced), and a few friends whose coats I could pull for some
advice. I'll never forget when I hit the first chord of nefertiti,
the AbM#11 in a close left hand voicing, and thought...holy crap,
thats what herbie played. The first tunes I learned were Fall,
Nefertiti, Virgo, Infant Eyes, Self Portrait in Three Colors,
Reincarnation of a Lovebird (in G-...thank you...rather than F# m),
Joy Spring, Nostalgia in Times Square, Desert Air, Crystal Silence,
all kinds of stuff that would never be in a standards book, but that I
loved. I know lots of people dump on the Real Book, its kind of the
hip thing to do, but where else would you find charts to these tunes
that have since become modern jazz standards, and how else could you
put together sessions playing stuff other than the 1940's standards
without the real book. I also have 20 or 30 fake books, most of them
on my ipad now. None of them come out that often anymore, but the
real book does more than any other still, unless I am playing with
Oh. Then I bought one. I probably still have it somewhere.
In article <idp9ef$ume$1...@news.eternal-september.org>, Rick Stone
'The Bumblebee Bookstore! That place was so cool! 'Remember his sign
"Jazz Hive, No Jive"?
The location became Cambridge Music, and is now on it's second (or
> I started teaching myself jazz piano in the 70's armed with nothing
> but a real book, mehegans books (which were useless to me then, too
Mehegan is what turned me around in my understanding of jazz. 1970.
> I know lots of people dump on the Real Book, its kind of the
> hip thing to do,
I like other books better for their selection and accuracy,
paraticularly the Sher books. That's how hip I am.
> ... but where else would you find charts to these tunes
> that have since become modern jazz standards, and how else could you
> put together sessions playing stuff other than the 1940's standards
> without the real book.
Sher's Real Book collection.
well, thats now, I should have used the past tense.
The amazing thing to me is that it has remained popular for as long as it
has. This book has "standardized" a broad swath of repertoire. For better or
worse, decades of pickup bands etc. have relied on this book. I have even
seen it used in concerts recently. ...joe
Visit me on the web www.JoeFinn.net
Or say hello via Facebook:
I'm constantly amazed at how many trumpet players only know the second
half of "Stardust"
A bass player friend of mine always plays the Oscar Pettiford intro.
I love it!
It also became a crutch to some of us (me, for example) in that it
wasn't necessary to seek out the recordings and figure out the changes
for yourself. Maybe more important, it wasn't as necessary to be able
to identify the changes the pianist was using if they were different
from the ones you knew. This made it possible to play without really
developing some important skills.
I started playing jazz around the time it came out. I don't really
know how stuff like this was handled in jams before that. I'm
guessing that there was a group of tunes that everybody knew -- I
don't know how they handled knowing the versions from different
recordings. Or if they were aware of the vanilla changes in the main
fakebook that was around then (the 3 to a page book with tunes from
the 20s to the 40's). Or if there was a finite repertoire of dance
band tunes that had been radio hits that everybody learned because it
was the meat and potatoes of gigs. I recall that Charlie Parker had a
dance band gig when he first came to NY. Presumably he picked up
A few other players gave me 10 bucks and took mine to a copy place and
made a bunch of copies where they could all get the price down to 10
This was fall of 75 and some guys already had it...so i figure he must
have been selling them the semester before I got there.
Stu is still around making music...but I was always impressed with the
idea that he got all those tunes pretty much right. However, I do seem
to remember him having a partner and he was not the only guy selling
By the end of the fall 75 semester, you were really 'out of it' if you
didnt have the real book All the teacher had them by then. It was the
main link for all students to jam and to practice.
It was incorporated into our private lessons...it was like a required
yea..i remember the very first ones...and they are still around!
Yes, The Real Book is basically required text
to be a jazz player these days.
Funny thing about the Legal version of The Real
Book: the Zappa family decided they didn't
want to allow Frank Zappa's work to be included
for some dumb reason. What better way to ensure
the propagation of someone's music than to publish
it in an official book that people will jam and create
music to? Not that I'm the biggest Zappa fan, but
I thought that was a bad decision by the family.
Purists will say it's better without him......haha
> Funny thing about the Legal version of The Real
> Book: the Zappa family decided they didn't
> want to allow Frank Zappa's work to be included
> for some dumb reason. What better way to ensure
> the propagation of someone's music than to publish
> it in an official book that people will jam and create
> music to? Not that I'm the biggest Zappa fan, but
> I thought that was a bad decision by the family.
> Purists will say it's better without him......haha
It's Zappa family policy to make bad decisions.
"Blessed Relief" is a nifty tune, although my recollection is that the
chart in the 5th edition has some missing bars or something.
Gotta make it somehow on the dreams you still believe.
Gerry mentioned the Spaces Fakebooks.
If someone missed the thread last year,
here are the six volumes for download: