A Brief TV-Interview Video of Chuck

 

On the day Frank Sinatra died, a local TV station came to Charles Nathan's house to capture his response regarding Frank Sinatra's passing. These are two short clips of Charles sharing his thoughts on the event. Although the footage is brief, we're glad we have this to share. The footage might be especially valuable for those who did not personally know Charles. For such people, it is possible from viewing the interview clips to gain some idea as to Charles's personality, style, and conviction regarding his musical beliefs. The clips are a good background on Charles, who makes a few memorable points. We are pleased to have the ability to make this post. (Used by permission. KMTR TV, Eugene, Oregon, 1998. All Rights Reserved.)

 

On Chuck's TV Interview

These are two separate takes of songwriter Charles Nathan being interviewed to react to Frank Sinatra's passing.  The question that often comes up is: how did the media know about Charles?  

In the early seventies, a short time after he moved to Oregon, and due to his many years of membership in ASCAP,  Oregon State University called Charles to present to some of their students studying songwriters.  He made his presentation, and evidently, it was an impressionable one.  It seems his local reputation as a songwriter grew going forward from that service.  

Chuck's insights into Sinatra's musicianship and the status of swing music when the interview took place are meaningful documentations.  The little bit that Chuck has to say makes me wonder what songs Sinatra would be singing if he were alive today, or are the writing and rise-to-popularity of such songs all through.  

I believe the answer has to do with music history.  It seems as though a new category of music is being born worthy of historical note.  This new category is probably the popular song chosen to be the subject of improvisation by the many jazz master-musicians who record their virtuosity and creativity while using a popular song as a point from which to leap.  This was the norm during the swing era, but today it is not so.  

Consider this observation: History will attach a high level of musical accomplishment to the songwriters whose songs became the repertoire of the accomplished jazz improvisers.  All the other songs that have been written will have a smaller place in history, being recognized for a smaller amount of serious musical worth.  The songwriters whose songs are chosen as subjects by the great jazz players will live forever, and the chances for "life" of all the rest is probably less.

The time that has elapsed since the swing era, and the recent recordings that have surfaced, with great success using songs from the swing era, support this observation.  A class of songs in possession of substantial musical elements, particularly melody and harmony, are worthy subjects for those musicians pressing the outer limits of musical expression and creativity.  There are not many, if any, such songs being written that rise to popularity today.  However, it is becoming clear that one can compose, intending to contribute such works even today.  The accomplishment of even just one such song is a lofty ambition.  

It is not easy to be the composer of such a song because the words and the music have to be nothing short of great.  Such efforts try to join the ranks of great songwriters like Gershwin.  I hope that those envisioning themselves as young songwriters set such a goal for themselves: to have a song among the great "standards."   We need more compositions that literally "set the standard" by being exceptional creations of words combined with music, worthy of being the object of development by talented jazz artists.  

Charles, like many, used to remind those around him that great writing stands the test of time.  According to jazz master-musicians, this song class has stood the test of time while being confirmed by the public.  By far, most songs that capture some favor from the public never wind up in the continually-recorded-decade-after-decade-jazz-standard class and resolve to be "flashes in the pan" because they don't have enough lyrical and musical substance to facilitate endurance.  

At Soaring, we are resolved to take this up as our crusade, asking "Where the Heck's the Plot?," "What Happened to the Writer's?" and from a different musical by Charles, the song "Art," which makes a related point with its lyrical message.  Can we popularize some songs that are good to use for improvising jazz?  We are trying.


 

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