SAVING THE SONGBOOK: APTOS JAZZ SINGER RON KAPLAN EMBARKS ON AN AUDACIOUS
MISSION TO PRESERVE THE LEGACY OF TIN PAN ALLEY AND THE AMERICAN MUSICAL
Dateline: September 29, 2005 ... Aptos, CA
Contact Name: Ronald Kaplan, American Songbook Preservation Society
Contact Phone: (831) 687-0278
Web Address: http://www.GreatAmericanSongbook.org
APTOS, CA - September 29, 2005 - On August 3, 2005, the great Tony
Bennett turned 79, a number that doesn't sit well with Ron Kaplan.
Yes, Kaplan is a big Tony Bennett fan, but his anxiety goes beyond
that. The Aptos jazz singer is worried about the cultural legacy that
Bennett represents. He's worried about the Great American Songbook.
As a result, Kaplan is embarking on a noble and ambitious project to
preserve what he calls "our gift to the world, our cultural treasure."
He's referring to American music popular in the years between 1920 and
1960 that came out of the Tin Pan Alley tradition, Broadway and the
Hollywood musical and written by such towering figures as Irving
Berlin, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael
The aging of Bennett, who Kaplan calls "the most prominent ambassador
of American song alive today", means that the "American Songbook," as
the body of work is often called, may be in cultural eclipse. Thus,
Kaplan founded the American Songbook Preservation Society (ASPS), a
nonprofit organization dedicated to underwriting and presenting
performances of the songs that Bennett himself has called "the
classical music of our time."
"People all over the world are familiar with this music and honor it
as a true American legacy," said Kaplan. "In our culture, however, we
don't seem to give it the same significance."
The Songbook also includes such great songwriters as Johnny Mercer,
Harold Arlen, Mel Torme, Jerome Kern and great songwriting teams like
Rodgers & Hart, Rodgers & Hammerstein and George & Ira Gershwin,
encompassing hundreds of landmark songs from "My Funny Valentine" to
"Over the Rainbow."
Kaplan does not necessarily agree with those who believe that the
emergence of young, sexy jazz singers like Diana Krall and Norah Jones
means new life for the classic American Songbook. In Kaplan's view,
such artists haven't developed their craft enough to explore the full
range of the Songbook and, in fact, are involved in all sorts of
musical cross-pollination that have lessened the impact of the
Songbook on the American musical canon.
Citing a trend in which young jazz singers are turning to the work of
1970's singer/songwriters like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell,
Kaplan says that young artists too often don't have the commitment or
the attention span to carry on the legacy.
"Today, there's young musicians coming out of places like the Berklee
School of Music, and they can do extended chords and jazz
riffs but they don't really know the music. My fear is that the
older people who really know the music, who know how to play it and
how to sing it, are dying out."
What Kaplan hopes to do is to build an internationally
recognized organization that brings jazz singers committed to the
Songbook to younger audiences. The ASPS will enlist a roster of jazz
musicians and vocalists and underwrite their performances in high-
profile venues and jazz festivals across the U.S.
Kaplan said that he would give artists absolute freedom to interpret
the music as they see fit, but would insist on only performing music
considered part of the Songbook canon, and the shows meet certain
standards of presentation.
"I think we would go in the direction of gowns and tuxedos and
elevating it, like Duke Ellington did, to a certain level of
Kaplan's plans come into clearer focus when it comes to his budget. He
hopes to raise a whopping million from individuals, corporate
grants and foundations, which would give a yearly budget of about
.25 million. He's already gotten words of support from such
prominent figures as jazz critic and writer Nat Hentoff and star
trumpeter and jazz preservationist Wynton Marsalis.
Kaplan is an accomplished jazz singer in his own right, having just
recorded his fifth album on his own label, Kapland Records, titled
"Saloon", which is a simple voice-and-piano album. For more
information about the album visit:
In addition to constantly honing his instrument as a singer, Kaplan
has also taken courses to receive a Certificate of Completion in
Nonprofit Management, hoping to give the new organization a solid
foundation. Now comes the hard part, shaking the trees.
"Preserving the Songbook is just such an American, patriotic thing
to do, I really don't see why anyone wouldn't respond to it. I just
have to go out now and hit the bricks. I have to make it happen."
For more information on the American Songbook Preservation Society,
American Songbook Preservation Society
Ronald Kaplan, Executive Director
9051-A Soquel Drive
Aptos, CA 95001
Phone: (831) 687-0278
Photos for this article are available by request.
Add this page to
Press Releases | Press
Releases | PR