Anyone who has ever braved the stage at a jazz jam session is undoubtedly familiar with The Real Book, an exhaustive, spiral-bound collection of lead sheets for jazz tunes. Originally handwritten, copied, and bootlegged, though more recently issued in official form, the book became the holy text for aspiring jazz musicians, a Rosetta Stone for the most-often-played standards.
Noticing his own well-worn copy sitting alongside a stack of his own, much-less-used compositions, pianist David Dzubinski was struck by a notion: Why not assemble a Real Book for Philly-area composers? "People have been playing 'Autumn Leaves' forever," Dzubinski said. "It's part of the repertoire. I can't do that with somebody's original material if I've never even heard it. But if we can get a book together, I could show up and call a [late Philly pianist] Sid Simmons tune or a [Philly tenor sax player] Bootsie Barnes tune. That was a really intriguing and cool idea."
Now, with funding from Jazz Bridge, the Samuel S. Fels Fund, and the Philadelphia Jazz Project, Dzubinski's brainstorm is becoming a reality. He has already collected contributions from more than two dozen area composers, including Pat Martino, Uri Caine, John Swana, Barbara Montgomery, and Terry Klinefelter. The hope is that the tunes will number in the hundreds by the time the window for submission closes June 1.
The project is open to all jazz and blues composers, living or deceased, over agef 18, who were born and raised in, lived in, or currently live in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. To protect the work, contributions must be copyrighted to be included. Dzubinski will host a town hall April 21 at the Clef Club to explain and discuss the book with those interested in learning more.
Eventually, the book will be available in print through the Philadelphia Real Book website, and Jazz Bridge has tentative plans to present a series of concerts this fall celebrating the book. Dzubinski hopes eventually to offer an app that will spread the work beyond the immediate area.