a 12-bar blues chorus normally consists of what formal scheme?

Experiencing Jazz

Experiencing Jazz, Second Edition, is an integrated textbook with online resources for jazz appreciation and history courses. Through readings, illustrations, timelines, listening guides, and a streaming audio library, it immerses the reader in a journey through the history of jazz, while placing the music within a larger cultural and historical context. Designed to introduce the novice to jazz, Experiencing Jazz describes the elements of music, and the characteristics and roles of different instruments. Prominent artists and styles from the roots of jazz to present day are relayed in a story-telling prose. This new edition features expanded coverage of women in jazz, the rise of jazz as a world music, the influence of Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz, and streaming audio.

Features: • Important musical trends are placed within a broad cultural, social, political, and economic

context • Music fundamentals are treated as integral to the understanding of jazz, and concepts are

explained easily with graphic representations and audio examples • Comprehensive treatment chronicles the roots of jazz in African music to present day • Commonly overlooked styles, such as orchestral jazz, Cubop, and third-stream jazz are

included • Expanded and up-to-date coverage of women in jazz.

The media-rich companion website presents a comprehensive streaming audio library of key jazz recordings by leading artists integrated with interactive listening guides. Illustrated musical concepts with web-based tutorials and audio interviews of prominent musicians acquaint new listeners to the sounds, styles, and figures of jazz.

Richard J. Lawn recently retired as Dean of the College of Performing Arts at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. You can see and hear him as saxophonist, composer, and bandleader for Power of Ten, playing in local clubs and on recordings.

Experiencing Jazz Second Edition

Richard J. Lawn Professor Emeritus, College of Performing Arts at the University of the Arts

Second edition published 2013 by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Simultaneously published in the UK by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

© 2013 Taylor & Francis

The right of Richard J. Lawn to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe.

First edition published 2007 by The McGraw-Hill Companies

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Lawn, Richard, author.

Experiencing jazz/Richard J. Lawn.—Second edition. pages cm Includes bibliographical references, discography, and videography. 1. Jazz—History and criticism. 2. Jazz—Analysis, appreciation. I. Title. ML3506.L39 2013 781.65—dc23 2012024753

ISBN: 978-0-415-65935-2 (pbk and online access card) ISBN: 978-0-415-69960-0 (pbk) ISBN: 978-0-415-83735-4 (online access card) ISBN: 978-0-203-37981-3 (ebk and online access card) ISBN: 978-0-203-37985-1 (ebk)

Typeset in Bembo, Helvetica Neue and Kabel by Florence Production Ltd, Stoodleigh, Devon, UK

Please visit the companion website at www.routledge.com/cw/Lawnwww.routledge.com/cw/Lawn

I am deeply indebted to my wife, Susan Lawn, for “putting her life on hold,” not once but twice, while helping immeasurably to make this book become a reality. In addition, thanks to the many students who served as its inspiration.


List of Photos xiv List of Examples xix List of Figures xxii Preface xxiii Acknowledgments xxviii


1 The Nature of Jazz 3

Experiencing Music . . . Experiencing Jazz 4 That Four-Letter Word 4 Defining Jazz 6 Chapter Summary 8 Study Questions 9

2 The Elements of Jazz 13

Rhythm 14 Meter and Tempo 15 Rhythmic Devices Important to Jazz 16 Swing as an Aspect of Jazz Rhythm 18

Melody 18 Harmony 20 Texture 21 Form 22 Improvisation 23

Something Borrowed—The European Tradition 23 Something New, Something Blue—The Jazz Tradition 24 Blues 24 Improvisation in Jazz 26

Chapter Summary 29 Key Terms 30 Study Questions 31

3 Listening to Jazz 33

Performance Practice 33 The Instruments of Jazz 34 The Drum Set and Swing 34 Orchestration and Instrumentation 36 Instrumental Techniques and Special Effects 37

Understanding the Whole Performance 39 Describing the Performance 41

Video Blues 42 Chapter Summary 43 Key Terms 43 Study Questions 44

4 The Roots of Jazz 45

Jazz in Perspective 45 The Significance of African Music to Jazz 46 African Musical Aesthetic 46 Elements of African Music 47 African Music as a Means of Communication 49

The Afro-Latin and Caribbean Tinge 49 Background 50 Early Fusions 52

Early American Vocal Music 54 The Innovators: Getting the Blues 56

Robert Johnson (1911–1938) 57 Bessie Smith (1894–1937) 59 W.C. Handy—“Father of the Blues” (1873–1958) 61

Ragtime 62 Brass and Military Bands 67 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 68 Chapter Summary 70 Key Terms 70 Study Questions 71


5 Jazz Takes Root 75

Jazz in Perspective 75 The Reception of Early Jazz 78 New Orleans—The Birthplace of Jazz 80

Dixieland Jazz Band Instrumentation 81 The Innovators: Early Jazz 83

Original Dixieland Jazz Band 83 Kid Ory (1890–1973) 86 Joe “King” Oliver (1885–1938) 86 Lilian Hardin 86


Jelly Roll Morton (1890–1941) 89 Louis Armstrong (1901–1971) 91 Sidney Bechet (1897–1959) 94

Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 95 Chapter Summary 97 Key Terms 97 Study Questions 98

6 The Jazz Age: From Chicago to New York 99

Jazz in Perspective 99 South Side of Chicago 100 On the Other Side of Town 102 The Chicago Sound 103 The Innovators: A Few of the Many 104

New Orleans Rhythm Kings (NORK) 104 Bix Beiderbecke (1903–1931) 105 Frankie “Tram” Trumbauer (1901–1956) 106 Paul Whiteman (1890–1967) and Symphonic Jazz 108

Boogie-Woogie, Eight to the Bar 110 The Decline of the Chicago Era 111 Chicago Jazz in Retrospect 113 New York and the Harlem Renaissance 114

James P. Johnson (1891–1955) 115 Marketing Jazz 118 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 120 Chapter Summary 121 Key Terms 122 Study Questions 122

7 The Swing Era: Jazz at Its Peak 125

Jazz in Perspective: The Depths of the Depression 126 The Country Recovers 127 The Anatomy of the Swing Era Jazz Band 127

Instrumentation 128 Repertoire and Arrangement 131

The Innovators: Swing on the East Coast 132 Fletcher Henderson (1897–1952) 133 Coleman Hawkins—“The Father of Jazz Tenor Saxophone” (1904–1969) 135 Duke Ellington (1899–1974): Music Was His Mistress 137 Benny Goodman—The “King of Swing” (1909–1986) 147

Popular White Swing Bands 151 Artie Shaw (Arthur Arshawsky) (1910–2005) 151

The Vocalists’ Rise to Fame 153 Ongoing Latin Influences 155 Chapter Summary 155 Key Terms 156 Study Questions 157


8 Swinging Across the Country: The Bands, Singers, and Pianists 159

Jazz in Perspective 160 The Innovators: A Unique Kaycee Style 161

Benny Moten 161 William “Count” Basie (1904–1984) 162 Lester Young (1909–1959) 164

Territory Bands 167 Mary Lou Williams (1910–1981) 168

The Innovators: A Few of the Swing Era Singers and Pianists 170 Billie Holiday (1915–1959): “Lady Day” 170 Ella Fitzgerald (1918–1996): The “First Lady of Song” 172 Art Tatum (1909–1956) 174

Traditional Jazz Revival 177 Swing Era Success 177 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 181 Chapter Summary 184 Key Terms 185 Study Questions 185


9 The Bebop Revolution 189

Jazz in Perspective 189 The Lifestyle and Musical Characteristics 192 The Birth of Bebop: The First Recordings 194

Characteristics of the Style 196 Bebop Performance Practice and Instrumental Roles Redefined 197

The Innovators: Bop Stylists 199 John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie (1917–1993) 199 Charlie Parker (1920–1955) 201 Bud Powell (1924–1966) 203 Dexter Gordon (1923–1990) 205 J.J. Johnson (1924–2001) 206

The Innovators: Bebop Rhythm-Section Players 207 Thelonious Sphere Monk (1917–1982) 207 Oscar Pettiford (1922–1960) 209 Kenny Clarke (1914–1985) 209 Max Roach (1924–2007) 210 Sarah Vaughan: “The Divine One” (1924–1990) 211

Modern Jazz Embraces the Afro-Cuban Spirit 213 Dizzy Gillespie and the Birth of Cubop 213

The Decline of Bebop 217 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 217 Chapter Summary 219 Key Terms 220


Appendix 220 Study Questions 223

10 The 1950s and Early 1960s: Cool, Intellectual, and Abstract Jazz 225

Jazz in Perspective 225 Characteristics of Cool Jazz 228 The Innovators: The Cool Sound on the East and West Coasts 231

Miles Davis and Gil Evans: The Birth of the Cool 231 Modern Jazz Quartet 233 Gerry Mulligan (1927–1996) and Chet Baker (1929–1988) 233 Dave Brubeck (1920–2012) 235 Bill Evans (1929–1980) 238

The Brazilian Bossa Nova 241 Stan Getz (1927–1991) 243

Third-Stream Jazz 245 Lennie Tristano (1919–1978) 247

Who Was Popular 248 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 249 Chapter Summary 250 Key Terms 251 Study Questions 252


11 Tradition Meets the Avant-Garde: Moderns and Early Postmoderns Coexist 255

Jazz in Perspective 256 The Innovators: The Characteristics and Artists of Mainstream Hard Bop 256

Art Blakey (1919–1990) Carries the Message 258 Other Hard-Bop Messengers 260

More About Funky, Soul Jazz and the 1950s and 1960s 264 Organ Trios and the Guitar 265

Wes Montgomery (1923–1968) 265 Jimmy Smith (1925–2005) 266

Everlasting Big Bands 268 Defining Postmodernism 270

Ornette Coleman (1930–) and His Disciples 271 The Innovators: Postmodern Jazz Comes of Age 276

Charles Mingus (1922–1979)—The Underdog 276 The End of Modern Jazz Heralded by the Beginning of the Postmoderns 278 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 280 Chapter Summary 282 Key Terms 283 Study Questions 283


12 Miles and Miles of Miles: Miles Davis and His Sidemen Redefine Postmodern Jazz 285

Jazz in Perspective 286 The Music 287 The Early Miles 287 The First Great Quintet 289 Modal Jazz 290

Miles and Gil 294 The Second Great Quintet 296 The Electronic Jazz–Rock Fusion Period 300 Davis Sidemen Become Major Forces 305

John Coltrane (1926–1967) 306 Wayne Shorter (1933–) 312 Herbie Hancock (1940–) 313

Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 314 Chapter Summary 317 Key Terms 318 Study Questions 318

13 The Electric 1970s and 1980s 321

Jazz in Perspective 321 The Music 322 Jazz and Rock: The Two-Way Connection 323 The Innovators: Living Electric in the Shadow of Miles Davis 325

Weather Report 325 Herbie Hancock and the Head Hunters 329 John McLaughlin (1942–) and the Mahavishnu Orchestra 331 Chick Corea (1941–) 333

Soul and Pop Instrumental Jazz 336 David Sanborn (1945–) 336 The Brecker Brothers 336 Grover Washington, Jr. (1943–1999) 337 Chuck Mangione (1940–) 337

The Signs of the Times: New Technologies and Changing Business Models 338 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 339 Chapter Summary 340 Key Terms 341 Study Questions 342

14 The Unplugged, Eclectic 1970s and 1980s 343

Long Live Acoustic Jazz 343 The ECM Sound 344 The Innovators: The Rebirth of Acoustic Jazz 345

Keith Jarrett (1945–) 345 Return of Expatriates Unleashes a Rebirth of Acoustic Jazz 349


Wynton Marsalis (1961–) and the Young Lions 350 The Freedom Fighters Take Risks 352

Cecil Taylor (1929–) 354 Old Bottles, New Wines—Long Live Big Bands 356 The Changing Jazz Landscape as the Millennium Comes to a Close 357 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 358 Chapter Summary 360 Key Terms 361 Study Questions 361

15 Jazz for a New Century 363

Jazz in Perspective 364 Trends in Contemporary Jazz 365 Established Artists Offer Seasoned Jazz 367

John Scofield (1951–) and Joe Lovano (1952) 367 Michael Brecker (1949–2007) and Pat Metheny (1954–) 367

Popular Music Influences 371 Tim Hagans (1954–) 372

Vocal Renaissance 374 Esperanza Spalding (1984–) 375

Contemporary Women Emerging as Innovators 377 Maria Schneider (1960–) 378

Jazz as a Global Music 382 Afro-Cuban and Latin Jazz 382 Danilo Pérez (1965–) 382

Jazz as an International Language 384 Rudresh Mahanthappa and Vijay Iyer 387

The New Innovators: 21st-Century Emerging Artists 389 Jason Moran (1975–) 390

Closing Thoughts 391 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 392 Chapter Summary 396 Key Terms 397 Study Questions 397

Appendix I: Glossary of Terms 399 Appendix II: Suggested Jazz DVDs and Videos 411

Biographical 409 Historical Documentaries 410 Performance/Instructional 410 Important Feature Films 411

Appendix III: Chapter Notes and Additional Sources 415

Index 429



August Wilson Theatre (formerly Virginia Theatre)/Neil Simon Theatre 52nd Street, Manhattan, New York City. May 2007 xxiv

American bandleader James Reese Europe (1881–1919) poses (center, with baton) with members of his Clef Club Band, New York, 1914 3

Original Dixieland Jass Band promotional photo 5

Jazz singer Joe Williams 7

The World Saxophone Quartet performing in 1992 9

“Mother of the Blues” Ma Rainey on sheet-music cover 13

Old-style mechanical metronome 15

Gertrude “Ma” Rainey (1886–1939) and her Georgia Jazz Band, Chicago, 1923 25

American jazz musician Louis Armstrong (1901–1971) smiles as he poses on stage with a band for the WMSB radio station in New Orleans, Louisiana, 1920s 26

Jazz musicians performing in a nightclub 33

The typical jazz drum set 35

April 16, 1912: The front-page New York Times newspaper headline announces the sinking of The Titanic ocean liner 45

Map tracing Christopher Columbus’s voyages, which resemble slave-trade routes 51

Slaves returning from the cotton fields in South Carolina, c.1860 54

Fisk Jubilee Singers 55

Bessie Smith, “Empress of the Blues” 59

Promotional photo, c.1930, of W.C. Handy, “Father of the Blues” 61

1899 sheet-music cover of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” 65

Portrait of American ragtime composer and pianist Scott Joplin (1868–1917), c.1910 66

Player piano roll of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” patented September 13, 1904 67

An American suffragette wears a sign proclaiming “Women! Use your vote,” c.1920 75

Portrait of the Buddy Bolden Band, New Orleans, Louisiana, c.1900 81

The Original Dixieland Jass Band 84

Pianist, composer, arranger, singer, and bandleader Lilian Hardin Armstrong 86

King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in the early 1920s 87

Composer and pianist Jelly Roll Morton at the piano 89

Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five 92

Sidney Bechet plays clarinet for a Blue Note Records session, June 8, 1939 94

Henry Ford and his son Edsel in front of their new model in New York in 1927–1933 99

Marathon dance competitions were part of the growing phenomenon of youth culture in the 1920s, Chicago 101

Bix Beiderbecke and the Wolverines in the Gennett Recording Studios, in 1924, in New York 103

Cornetist Bix Beiderbecke (1903–1931) poses for a portrait, c.1925 105

Frankie Trumbauer and unidentified guitarist 107

Paul Whiteman and his orchestra 109

A crowd of depositors outside the American Union Bank in New York, having failed to withdraw their savings before the bank collapsed 112

Exterior of the Renaissance Casino ballroom in Harlem, New York, late 1920s 114

James P. Johnson poses for a studio portrait in 1921 115

Corner of Lennox Avenue and 147th Street in Harlem showing the exterior of the M&S Douglas Theatre and a sign for the Cotton Club a few doors down, 1927 125

Jazz pianist Teddy Wilson playing with a quartet during the set break of Benny Goodman’s band, because racially mixed bands were not the rule in New York City at the “Madhattan Room” in the Hotel Pennsylvania 131

Bandleader, pianist, composer/arranger Fletcher Henderson 133

Coleman Hawkins, “the father of jazz tenor saxophone” 135

Duke Ellington and his band performing at the legendary Cotton Club 139

Dancers performing onstage at the Cotton Club 141

Composer Duke Ellington, singer Ivie Anderson, and drummer Sonny Greer pose for a portrait with the orchestra in 1943, in Los Angeles, California 143

Bandleader and clarinetist Benny Goodman (center) performs for a large crowd at Manhattan Beach, New York, August 11, 1938 148

The Benny Goodman Sextet 149

Guitarist Charlie Christian on stage with the Benny Goodman Orchestra, in New York, c.1940 150

Big-Band Leader Artie Shaw performs in 1945, Los Angeles, California 151

December 8, 1941: The front page of the New York World Telegram announces Japanese air attack at Pearl Harbor, commencing the U.S. entry into World War II 159

The Count Basie Orchestra performs on stage in Chicago in 1940 162

Count Basie with his “All American Rhythm Section” 163


Tenor saxophonist Lester Young performs while holding his instrument in his classic sideways style 165

Pianist, composer, arranger Mary Lou Williams 168

Billie Holiday singing at a Decca recording session, c.1946 170

Ella Fitzgerald, the “First Lady of Song,” 1940 172

Art Tatum Trio 175

Special edition of Jazzmen, produced by the Armed Services and designed to fit in soldiers’ knapsacks 177

The ruins of a cinema stand stark against the rubble after the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima August 8, 1945, brought World War II to a close 189

The Onyx jazz club in New York, advertising singer Maxine Sullivan 193

The club named after Charlie Parker, located at 1678 Broadway, New York 195

Dizzy Gillespie, with characteristic puffed cheeks and upturned trumpet 200

Jay McShann Orchestra in New York, 1942 201

Charlie Parker, with Miles Davis, trumpet; Tommy Potter, bass 202

Pianist Earl “Bud” Powell 203

Tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon in Los Angeles, 1947 205

Thelonious Monk at Minton’s Playhouse 207

Drummer Max Roach 210

Vocalist Sarah Vaughan 211

Latin jazz singer and bandleader Machito (Frank Raul Grillo) holding maracas, while leading his band 214

Saxophonist James Moody, Cuban conga player Chano Pozo, and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie performing in 1948 215

Race riots and picketers in Birmingham, Alabama 225

Miles Davis recording in 1959 231

The Dave Brubeck Quartet, with Brubeck at the piano, Paul Desmond on saxophone, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums, in 1959 236

Pianist Bill Evans 238

Stan Getz in a live performance 244

Pianist Lennie Tristano 247

American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) speaks at a rally held at the Robert Taylor Houses in Chicago, Illinois, 1960s 255

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers play at the Birdhouse, a Chicago jazz club, 1961 258

Clifford Brown at a recording session 262

Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins performs at the Berkshire Music Barn Jazz Festival in Lenox, MA, 1956 262

Guitarist Wes Montgomery, c.1960 266

Jimmy Smith sitting at the Hammond B3 organ 266

Contemporary bandleader Stan Kenton rehearses his jazz band in London, in preparation for a performance at the Royal Albert Hall 268


Saxophonist Ornette Coleman with trumpeter Don Cherry at the 5 Spot, New York City 272

Jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus 276

Apollo 11, the first manned lunar-landing mission, was launched on July 16, 1969, and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first and second men to walk on the moon 285

Miles Davis’s nonet in a recording studio for the sessions released as Birth of the Cool 288

John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, and Bill Evans perform in the studio, New York, May 26, 1958 292

Trumpeter Miles Davis and producer/arranger Gil Evans record the album Quiet Nights in 1962 295

Miles Davis with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Wayne Shorter at the 1967 Newport Jazz Festival 297

Miles Davis performing in Copenhagen, 1973, wearing hip clothes of the day 304

John Coltrane performing on soprano saxophone with his quartet in West Germany, 1959 307

Demonstrators march up Avenue of Americas on their way to Central Park in New York as part of a rally against the Vietnam War, April 5, 1969 321

The rock band Blood, Sweat and Tears performs on stage at the Longhorn Jazz Festival, Dallas, Texas 324

Weather Report performs on stage at the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, June 1981 328

Herbie Hancock using a portable synthesizer keyboard 330

Guitarist John McLaughlin and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty from the Mahavishnu Orchestra perform in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 1974 332

Return To Forever performs in May 1977 335

Popular Philadelphia soulful saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. 337

Chuck Mangione playing his signature flugelhorn 338

A demonstration outside the Whitehouse in support of the impeachment of President Nixon (1913–1994) following the watergate revelations 343

Jazz pianist Keith Jarrett, c.1975 346

Dexter Gordon and quartet performing in the UK 349

Trumpeter/composer Wynton Marsalis in 1982 351

Pianist Cecil Taylor performs at Ronnie Scott’s in London 354

Jazz pianist and composer Toshiko Akiyoshi conducts her orchestra, c.1977 357

U.S. President Bill Clinton plays a saxophone along with musician Everett Harp at the Arkansas inaugural ball 20 January 1993 363

Michael Brecker performing with the Brecker Brothers at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 369

Contemporary guitarist Pat Metheny 369

Popular smooth-jazz artist Chris Botti 371


Trumpeter/composer Tim Hagans at the 2008 IAJE Conference in Toronto, Canada 372

Diana Krall performing in 2004 at the Mountain Winery, in Saratoga, California 374

Esperanza Spalding performs at the 4th Annual Roots Picnic at the Festival Pier, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 4, 2011 375

Maria Schneider conducts the Maria Schneider Orchestra on stage during the Festival Internacional de Jazz de Barcelona at Palau De La Musica, in Barcelona, Spain, 2011 379

Pianist Danilo Pérez 383

Jason Moran performs at Thelonious Monk Town Hall 50th Anniversary Celebration, 2009 390

xviii PHOTOS


2.1 Graphic representation of “Happy Birthday” 14 2.2 Illustration of a simple syncopation in measure 1 that results from handclaps on

off beats that create a tension between major beats represented by the foot tapping a steady pulse. By the second beat of the second measure, the handclaps are lined up precisely with the foot tapping on beats 2, 3, and 4, hence no syncopation and no tension 17

2.3 Using similar graphics, the following example illustrates a simple polyrhythm. In this case, the foot taps indicate a 3/4 meter and fundamental rhythm. The hand-clapping introduces a new rhythm in opposition to the foot tapping. If the foot tapping suddenly stops, the continuing handclaps give the illusion of 2/4 meter. The combined result when both are executed simultaneously is a polyrhythm 17

2.4 Two-octave C scale. Raised half-steps in between each scale note (black keys) are labeled above as sharps 19

2.5 Chord symbols in a typical progression that jazz musicians must learn to interpret 20

2.6 Visualization of monophonic texture. The light, horizontal, wavy line represents the melodic shape of a solo singer. There are no other layers present in this single-dimensional texture 21

2.7 Visualization of homophonic texture. The wavy, horizontal line represents the melodic shape of a solo singer. The vertical bars represent chords, with darker shades indicating major chords, and lighter shades representing minor chords 21

2.8 Visualization of polyphony. The light, horizontal, wavy lines represent the melodic shape of a solo singer and a second melodic voice complementing the primary vocal melody below it. The vertical bars represent chords, with darker shades indicating major chords, and lighter shades representing minor chords. Black dots represent a rising and falling bass line in counterpoint with the melody line. The entire texture, with multiple layers of activity, is described as polyphonic 21

2.9 Lowered third, fifth and seventh (E flat, G flat, B flat) are called “blue notes” and are indicated in the following keyboard example 24

2.10 Typical jazz chord progression illustrated by symbols 27 3.1 Swing ride cymbal pattern 36 3.2 Visual notations of special effects associated with jazz 38

4.1 The first line shows your foot tapping down and up, indicating 2 beats per measure. The second line adds handclaps that help to divide each beat in half, showing 1&2& 1&2&, corresponding to line 1. The third line adds handclaps to divide each measure of line 1 into triplets, or three pulses for every 2 foot taps. The last line shows handclaps dividing each beat in line 1 into groups of three, faster triplets than those line 3 47

4.2 African fundamental or ground pattern. Although many readers would likely not understand music notation, laymen can execute the following graphic representation of the pattern. The feet establish the pulse or basic beat, while the handclaps outline the specific ground rhythm pattern 48

4.3 The habanera rhythm is represented below in 4/4 meter for convenience, although it is usually found in 2/4 meter. Try to coordinate your hands and feet in a steady tempo. The handclap emphasizes the habanera rhythm, while the feet establish a basic tempo 52

4.4 Notice the close resemblance between this Charleston rhythm and the habanera at the middle of the measure 52

4.5 The clavé rhythm: The following illustrations are graphic representations of the 3–2 and 2–3 clavé patterns. The vertical line serves to delineate measures. You should try executing these rhythms with your hands and feet 53

4.6 Classic 12-bar blues. Each block represents 1 measure 57 4.7 Final rhythm from Stephen Foster’s “Camptown Races” 64 7.1 A graphic representation of 1 measure in 4/4 meter showing alternation

between a full quarter note of full value on beats 1 and 3, followed by even eighth-note divisions of beats 2 and 4. This rhythm pattern does not swing 129

7.2 A graphic representation of 1 measure in 4/4 meter showing the uneven division of beats 2 and 4, causing a feeling of anticipation of the following beats (3 and 1). This was the typical pattern played by the drummer on the cymbals, expressed below by the syllables. This rhythm helps to create the basis of the “swing” feel. Horn soloists and pianists would likely also swing in this uneven fashion 130

7.3 Contrast between arpeggiated and linear styles 136 9.1 Graphic representation of the jazz conga drum variation. Tap your left foot

in a steady tempo following the graphic while clapping the conga drum pattern 213

10.1 Eighth-note triplets 238 10.2 Quarter-note triplets 239 10.3 Samba rhythmic ostinato patterns; the foot image represents downward taps 242 10.4 Hand clapping syncopated bossa nova rhythm—syncopated tensions occur

when hand claps fall between the foot taps. There are numerous variations to the ostinato bossa nova rhythm patterns 243

11.1 Modern and postmodern jazz coexist 279 12.1 Piano with whole and chromatic half-steps indicated over two octaves,

C to C 290 12.2 By using different visual shades to represent sound, it is possible to differentiate

between modal and functional harmony as shown in the following illustrations. (A) Visual conceptualization of a modal texture. There is a sameness about this visual texture, much like there is in a modal section of music, where all notes, whether used vertically as a chord or horizontally to form melodic lines, stem from the same essential set of pitches (color, in this example).


(B) Visual conceptualization of functional harmony: Each horizontal bar represents a changing chord in a progression. Some chords are related, whereas others serve a quite different role. The black represents the strong chords that supply more variety than the above example 291

15.1 Piano keyboard based on Western music system with half-steps. Imagine 12 more keys (notes) added between C and C on this traditional Western keyboard 388



1.1 Jazz styles timeline 10 7.1 Typical big-band seating arrangement 128 7.2 Memorable Swing Era hits and associated bands 153 7.3 Important artists to emerge from Woody Herman and Stan Kenton bands 154 7.4 Popular vocalists and associated bands 154 8.1 Cost of living index, c.1940 167 8.2 Well-known territory bands and their locales 167 9.1 Comparison of swing and bebop styles 198

10.1 Comparison of bebop and cool styles 230 11.1 Jazz Messengers Sidemen 259 11.2 Horace Silver Sidemen 259 11.3 A study in contrasts: A comparison in the characteristics of free jazz and

more traditionally grounded, modern mainstream jazz styles 275 12.1 Miles Davis’s innovations 305 12.2 John Coltrane’s innovations 311 14.1 Distinguishing characteristics of Keith Jarrett’s music 347 15.1 Late 20th- and early 21st-century trends and artists in jazz 366 15.2 21st-century women in jazz 380 15.3 21st-century emerging innovators 389


I do not agree that the layman’s opinion is less of a valid judgment of music than that of a professional musician. In fact, I would often rely more on the judgment of a sensitive layman than that of a professional … —Jazz Pianist Bill Evans, from The Universal Mind of Bill Evans

Jazz is about America. It is American as apple pie and baseball, but surprisingly few people fully understand it or appreciate its wonder and appeal. Jazz represents the spirit and cultural fabric of America and has served as the basis of most popular music styles. Perhaps this is why our lives are invaded daily with jazz music – on television, in commercials selling everything from cars to banks and clothing, in films, in elevators and doctors’ offices, in restaurants and shopping malls and countless other pubic places. It is music that evokes basic human emotions and can be soothing, chilling, sensual, raucous, uplifting, thought provoking, transformational, spiritual, meditative, annoying, or even jarring. Sometimes it strikes controversy among listeners. Anyone is capable of enjoying these fundamental feelings, but the experience is enhanced beyond expectation when one knows more about how the music is produced, its roots, developments and place in American history.

Pictured on the front cover is Swing Street, 52nd Street in New York City in 1948. It was the place to hear jazz in the mid-20th Century. Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday Dizzy Gillespie, and performers from the earlier “Swing Era” could be heard in clubs like the Onyx and Three Deuces that lined the street between 5th and 7th Avenue as shown in the cover photo. Jazz in the 1930s and ’40s was America’s popular music. It was embedded in American culture and was the soundtrack for American life. The jazz musician helped to tell our country’s story at nightclubs, dance halls, and on records and radio. Their music was accessible, daring and represented freedom to the outside world.

This same street shown in the 2007 photo overleaf by comparison looks quite different though still the home for aspects of the entertainment business. Jazz was associated with entertainment in its early years and considered forbidden fruit by some. Over time Jazz has gained a respect and stature shared by art music, studied and analyzed much like Western classical music. Jazz is now found in most university curricula, cultivated in high school and middle schools jazz bands, and no longer associated with underbelly of society. Jazz has become and international language recognized as an American tradition. We invite you to explore and experience this unique national treasure, listen to landmark recordings and hear the stories of the artists who changed American culture.

Experiencing Jazz, Second Edition, places the music in an historical, cultural, and social context of American society. By placing Jazz within the context of social history, students better understand

its relevance. It also helps them to relate the music to their own interest areas, and to understand why, to some extent, the music may have developed as it did. In this way, Experiencing Jazz, Second Edition, goes beyond many textbooks.


Experiencing Jazz provides clear explanations of each jazz style and how it contrasts or is similar to other styles. Each style is presented in association with its primary innovators. The material is presented in a logical chronological sequence, but art is never that clean and easy to categorize or sort out. The reader will find the occasional paradox within a single chapter created by the juxtaposition of one style against a polar opposite. This approach was chosen rather than compartmentalizing styles and artists and confining their discussions to nice, cleanly sectionalized chapters. The multiplicity of styles is precisely what was encountered at the time, particularly from about 1950 on, leaving audiences, critics and the musicians to make sense of it all. To frame the socio-cultural backdrop and keep its importance at the fore, each chapter begins with a section described as “Jazz in Perspective” and closes with a “Chronicle of Historic Events,” serving as a reminder of the larger American fabric in which the music discussed throughout the chapter is an important thread.


August Wilson Theatre (formerly Virginia Theatre)/Neil Simon Theatre 52nd Street, Manhattan, New York City. May 2007

Experiencing Jazz—the textbook and website with streamed music—provide the reader with an understanding of how jazz works, how and why it evolved, who its primary innovators were, how to listen to it, and how in some cases jazz has been informed by certain aspects of American society including the evolution of new technologies that parallel the growth of jazz. The book and website familiarize the student with the basic building blocks of music as they relate to a discussion of jazz. Without an elementary understanding of music construction and jazz performance practices, it is difficult to fully appreciate a jazz performance. It is for this reason that such topics are discussed in Chapters 2 and 3 rather than at the end of the book as appendices. Experiencing Jazz is designed to create educated listeners, not just to present facts, dates, figures, lists of tunes and performers.

Each style chapter includes a retrospective glimpse at the reception of jazz in America by providing the reader with some insight into how the music was perceived by critics, historians and fans.


Fifteen chapters in all, the text is designed exclusively for the non-musician, carefully defining basic musical concepts as they relate to an understanding of a jazz performance. Such concepts are reinforced throughout the book.

• All key terms are shown in bold with immediate definitions. A comprehensive glossary of terms is included as an appendix.

• Explanations of fundamental musical concepts are often accompanied by graphic illustrations, making such concepts easier to understand by the non-musician.

• Each historic chapter begins with a section “Jazz in Perspective” that provides a context and historic backdrop for the music being discussed.

• Each historic chapter ends with a “Chronicle of Historic Events,” once again reminding the reader of how jazz styles are woven into the fabric of American culture at the time.

• Specific references are made to the website where activities are provided to support the chapter.

• Each jazz style is carefully examined through discussion and comparison to performance characteristics of earlier jazz styles. Helpful quick reference comparative and descriptive tables are also provided to summarize salient characteristics.

• Chapters focus on the primary innovators including the bands and soloists and what made their work innovative.

• Listening guides are provided in each chapter to serve as road maps through each featured audio track. These guides focus on important points using laymen terms or terms that have been well defined and used throughout the text.

• Discussions of how jazz was received and marketed are also included. • Chapter summaries and helpful study guides including a list of key performers, bands, terms

and places along with review questions are found at the end of each chapter. Supplementary listening lists are also included at the close of each chapter.


Since jazz is in a constant state of change it stands to reason that this second edition of Experiencing Jazz has been significantly revised:


• A final chapter addresses jazz at the close of the 20th century and the first decade of this new millennium.

• New sections about the internationalization of jazz as a global language and women in jazz have been added to the final chapter along with discussions and new recordings showing contemporary trends.

• Since a book about jazz should emphasize the music, a comprehensive collection of audio tracks—to accompany any text—is provided.

• Improved discussions of fundamental musical concepts as they relate to jazz performance are provided to cater to the needs of a non-musician in grasping basic musical concepts as they relate to a better understanding of jazz.

• Discussions of Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz trends are now integrated chronologically throughout the book.

• The narrative has been streamlined, reducing the page count. • New links to historic recordings only recently made available by the Library of Congress. • A new, greatly enhanced website providing streamed audio tracks, video, and additional

supplementary materials including more listening guides for landmark recordings not provided in the companion audio collection.


Experiencing Jazz offers a web streamed, comprehensive audio collection featuring landmark recordings by leading performers that illustrate the various styles discussed throughout the text. A complete list of tracks is included inside the covers. This collection is quite comprehensive, providing expanded coverage of women in jazz, Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz styles, and often overlooked styles or artists such as African music, rural blues, ragtime, organ trios, early symphonic jazz, vocalists and third-stream jazz. Some texts appear to be biased against certain styles, but Experiencing Jazz does not take sides and presents what listeners need to know in order to formulate their own aesthetic.

Listening guides that track each recording as it is streamed from the companion website clarify the listening experience. The website also includes additional listening guides for supplementary tunes easily found in most library collections or online suppliers. These guides are designed specifically for the non-musician and draw on skills acquired through readings about the elements of jazz and jazz performance practice presented in the first three chapters. Nothing has been assumed of the reader in terms of prerequisite knowledge. It is not enough to merely read about jazz, it must be keenly listened to and Experiencing Jazz provides all the necessary guidance to engage with the recordings and live performances.

A collection of audio recordings, combined with numerous video and audio tutorials found on the website reinforce the principles and performance practices associated with jazz. Emphasis is placed on artists who made and are making significant contributions to jazz rather than confusing the reader with lengthy lists of performers who, while their contributions to the evolution of jazz should be noted, are not considered in retrospect as major trendsetters or innovators. Special attention has been paid through the text design to emphasize one or two artists in each chapter who exemplify a particular style or trend. The decision to feature one artist over another was difficult but based logically on the artists innovative impact, longevity, and their overall impact and contributions to further developing the music. A case could certainly be made to highlight others.



These are provided to most of the historically significant recordings streamed and from the companion website. The website also includes additional listening guides for supplementary study of tunes easily found in most library collections or online suppliers. These guides are designed specifically for the non-musician and draw on skills acquired through readings about the elements of jazz and jazz performance practice presented in the first three chapters. Nothing has been assumed of the reader in terms of prerequisite knowledge. It is not enough to merely read about jazz it must be keenly listened to and Experiencing Jazz provides all the necessary guidance to fully appreciate the recordings and live performance.

Not every significant recording or artist can be represented in any collection, no matter how extensive. The selection of recordings to include confronted the author with difficult choices as it does most teachers. In some cases recording companies were unwilling to license some landmark recordings, however, excellent alternatives were found and listening guides for others not included are found on the website.



Since this book embraces and recognizes the needs of non-musicians, web-based materials were developed to enhance student’s understanding and appreciation of jazz by providing a more informed listening experience through audio, video and interactive tutorials. The companion website carefully parallels Chapters 1–3 in the text, providing audio and visual examples that bring to life the basic elements of music, jazz performance practices, improvisation styles, the instruments associated with jazz, and the concepts that help to define it. Chapters 4–15 provide suggestions for supplemental material found on the website such as interviews with innovative artists, YouTube links, and so on. A wealth of support material is included here that closely follows readings in the text. The website should therefore be considered as a closely integrated companion to the book. While it would be useful to have ready access to the website as each chapter is studied, it is not imperative or mandatory. All web-based activities are highlighted with icons throughout the text to direct students and teachers to additional information that can be found on the site.

This website provides a wide range of support for the students and teachers including:

• Interactive materials that clearly explain fundamentals of melody, rhythm, harmony, form, blues, and performance practice in jazz including improvisation

• Instructional videos to provide a keen awareness of form, the instruments associated with jazz including Latin percussion and their roles in an ensemble, solo jazz piano styles, and jazz drum-set performance techniques associated with jazz styles.

• An audio introduction to each instrument associated with jazz that also acquaints the user with special effects, performance techniques and brass mutes associated with the jazz style. There is an instrument identification quiz provided as well.

• Additional listening guides for recordings not provided in the streamed audio collection. • Photos and documents that relate to each stylistic era. • Numerous audio excerpts from interviews with noted musicians including Miles Davis, Gil

Evans, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell, Stan Kenton, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday,

PREFACE xxviiwww.routledge.com/cw/lawn

Louis Armstrong, Gerry Mulligan, Dizzy Gillespie, and others bring authenticity to the text and the total experience.

• A condensed history of disc recording and discussion of the relationship of this medium to jazz.

• A glossary of terms that is linked to the any music specific terms used on the website.

Jazz has become a universal music that has gone global, recognized worldwide and identified with the United States, but no longer “owned” by Americans. It is a unique American nationalist style representing the most significant cultural contribution that the US has made to the global arts landscape. Jazz has become synonymous with modern American thought and is a metaphor for democracy and freedom of expression. It should be studied, experienced and treasured!

Richard J. Lawn Summer 2012


I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to the following individuals for their significant contributions and assistance during various stages in the development of this text and companion materials.

Special thanks to: Dan Morgenstern, Tad Hershorn, and the staff of the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies; UT-Austin College of Fine Arts Information Technology staff Jim Kerkhoff, Frank Simon, Andy Murphy, and Tyson Breaux; Paul Young, Glenda Smith, Todd Hastings, and Paul White who, as students at The University of Texas, helped in the development of a CD-ROM as a prototype of the new website; David Aaberg for his tenacious editorial suggestions and concise chapter summaries; Ben Irom and Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff, who helped to create some of the listening guides; David Fudell and the staff of the Center for Instructional Technologies at The University of Texas; The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at UT-Austin; Jack Cooper for his composition Video Blues; Austin, Texas musicians Greg Wilson, Randy Zimmerman, Pat Murray, Mike Koenning, Craig Biondi, Paul Haar, John Fremgen, Steve Snyder, Chris Maresh, Eric Middleton, Russell Scanlon, and John Kreger for their recorded contributions; Charlie Richard, Steve Hawk, and the Hawk–Richard Jazz Orchestra, whose Sea Breeze Jazz CD (SB-2093) The Hawk Is Out provided a source for brief audio examples; Paul DeCastro, Jeff Benedict, and members of Rhumbumba for their self-titled Sea Breeze Jazz CD (SB-3067) that provided Afro-Cuban examples; members of the Third Coast Jazz Orchestra, whose Sea Breeze Jazz CD (SB-2116) Unknown Soldiers provided a source for additional audio clips; Marc Dicciani and Marlon Simon from the University of the Arts School of Music for their Afro-Cuban demonstrations; Sara MacDonald from the UArts Library; Wesley Hall for his assistance in gaining permissions for the website; Denny Tek for her perseverant photo research; and Constance Ditzel and the staff at Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, for believing in the lasting value of this project.

xxviii PREFACE


Understanding Jazz


C H A P T E R 1

The Nature of Jazz Jazz isn’t a noun. It’s a verb. It’s a process, a way of being, a way of thinking.1

—Pat Metheny

American bandleader James Reese Europe (1881–1919) poses (center, with baton) with members of his Clef Club Band, New York, 1914


Music is the most elusive, abstract, and in some ways most intangible of all art forms. It cannot be touched, felt, or seen. It does, however, evoke any number of emotional responses, which is why it has become such an important part of the human experience. The only way to truly understand music, like any art form, is to experience it. No art form can be genuinely appreciated without an intimate experience with it. By working with clay, one gains a new perspective on what the sculptor faces when creating a work of art. By closely examining jazz performance practice, one gains a new view and appreciation of the music-making process.

Jazz is a performance art—a spontaneous art designed for the moment. Although it can be described in words, analyzed, and placed in a historic continuum, it cannot be fully understood and appreciated without the music being experienced first hand. Yet words alone cannot do justice to the listening experience, and it is important to understand that it is the music that points to the words we use to describe it. Jazz is a work in progress, an ongoing experiment and music in constant evolution. To quote jazz guitarist Larry Coryell, “jazz is a workshop.” One of the enduring qualities of jazz, and a defining characteristic, has been its ability to change, chameleon- like in nature, while absorbing every style it encounters, resulting in a new by-product.

Like any of the other art forms, music can be divided into numerous subcategories that, over time, have been described in great detail and consequently named. Words such as swing, bebop, cool, fusion, and smooth jazz have been coined in an effort to describe and compartmentalize jazz styles. It is the naming of these styles that often tends to confuse the listener, as there are often only subtle differences between them. The naming of various styles is the result of historians and critics attempting to better explain and describe the music. To some extent, these stylistic names are also the result of commercial marketing strategies. The term “jazz,” used to describe this uniquely American music, is no less confusing than the terms “classical” or “pop” music. Each of these general headings can imply numerous substyles. What is unique about jazz compared with classical music, among other things, is the rate at which jazz styles have evolved. In a mere 100 years, this American music has been transformed to include countless innovations in performance practice. These stylistic changes are so significant that the jazz of today bears only subtle similarities to the earliest forms from 100 years ago, and yet buried beneath the surface are common threads binding all of the uniquely different styles together to form a rich tapestry. The fun lies in finding these common characteristics. The essence of jazz is its ability to absorb, trans – form, and change. Like any art form, it is periodically renewed by various influences. Throughout its development, jazz has been viewed variously as folk music, entertainment, and art music. All three views often existed simultaneously, a fact still true today. It is a music that crosses all social, economic, racial, and geographic boundaries. Centuries from now, only the unique American innovations will be recognized and remembered. These will be sports such as baseball, inventions such as the personal computer, and, no doubt, jazz. Its influence has endured, and it is a unique, original American art form that has been designated a national treasure by the U.S. government.


It wasn’t that long ago we used to hear the word “jazz” frequently in common speech. It first appeared in American vocabulary in the early 1900s. Phrases such as “jazz up your wardrobe,” “put some jazz in your savings account,” “own the jazziest car on the road,” and “quit jazzin’ me!” came into being and were commonly heard. In the hit stage and film musical, Chicago, the most popular and most performed song is “All That Jazz.” The storyline takes place in the “gangsta” days of Al Capone in the 1920s, when jazz was in the early stages of becoming America’s popular music.


Existing as a slang term before it was used to describe music, its origins have puzzled historians for many years. Theories about the origins of the word jazz are largely unsubstantiated. Some have associated the word with the red-light district of New Orleans. Garvin Bushell, a circus band musician from New Orleans, offers the following observation:

They said that the French had brought the perfume industry with them to New Orleans, and the oil of jasmine was a popular ingredient locally. To add it to perfume was called “jassing it up.” The strong scent was popular in the red light district, where a working girl might approach a perspective customer and say, “Is jazz on your mind tonight, young fellow?”2

As late as 1947, Berry’s American Dictionary of Slang cited the word under copulate. The term jazz was supposedly related to the act itself—“he’s jazzin’ her”3 (a line from the musical Chicago). The New York Times used the term in its February 2, 1917 issue, in an advertisement taken by Reisenweber’s club to promote “The First Eastern Appearance of the Famous Original Dixieland Jazz Band.”4 According to Nick LaRocca, the group’s cornetist, “jass” was changed to “jazz” to discourage people from defacing signs by erasing the letter “j.” The associations of the word jazz to vulgarity, sex, and the bordello, coupled with the many styles that the word could describe, probably explains why some jazz musicians rarely, if ever, use the word in discussing their own music.5

Others attribute the word’s origins to linguistic variations. One writer points out the word’s relationship to the French word jaser, which means “to chat,” “to chatter,” “to prattle,” or “talk


Original Dixieland Jass Band promotional photo

a lot and say nothing.” Prior to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the French owned the Mississippi Delta area, often referred to as the birthplace of jazz.

Creoles, a racial mix resulting from unions between French, African-Americans and sometimes Spanish, spoke a hybrid form of French. Some theorists suggest that the word “jazz” in Creole meant to speed things up. Another theory to consider is the claim that the term jazz is derived from West African languages, a natural conclusion because the Gold (west) Coast of Africa served as the point of origin for many slaves. Early jazz artists’ names such as Charles and James morphed from their formal spellings to nicknames such as Chaz and Jas or Jazz.6 A 1919 article in the Music Trade Review refers to the wild, barbaric music played by trumpeter Jasbo Brown after he’d had a few drinks. Patrons who enjoyed his musically gregarious behavior shouted, “More Jasbo,” which eventually distorted to just “more jazz.”7 Jazz historian Robert Goffin attributed the word to a black musician named Jess who played in a “jerky, halting style.” As early as 1904, James Reese Europe, a black society bandleader, believed the word was a distortion of the name of a New Orleans band known as Razz’s Band. Other historians speculate that the term “jazz” stemmed from a vaudeville expression meaning to excite, stir things up, or make things go faster.8

As jazz developed into a more sophisticated, acceptable art form, efforts were even made to rename the music and discard “jazz,” owing to its undesirable connotations. In 1949, Down Beat magazine sponsored a contest to find a new name for jazz. The publisher announced prizes and a distinguished panel of judges (including the well-known, contem porary big-band leader Stan Kenton and author S.I. Hayakawa). After months of deliberation, the winner was announced— CREWCUT. The winner collected her $1,000 first prize from the magazine and defended her entry as “simply the exact opposite of the slang name for ‘classical’ music—‘Longhair’.” Other winning selections were Amerimusic, Jarb, Syncope, Improphony, and Ragtibop. The results were announced in the magazine, but this surprising statement was added: “The judges were unanimous in the opinion, shared by the editors of Down Beat, that none of the hundreds of words submitted is adequate as a substitute for Jazz.”9

Whatever the true story is about the derivation of this uniquely American word, the music and the word quickly gained recognition worldwide. One can fully experience jazz only by exploring how it is unique, how it can be described and identified, and how to evaluate and appreciate its forms and variety.

Before reading the following section, visit the website to listen to the collage recording that traces approximately 80 years of recorded jazz. Make note of how different each excerpt is from the others, and make a list of the similar and distinctly different features. Repeat this exercise once you have read the following section.


Jazz is a direct result of West African influences on European-derived music styles and popular American music. Since its beginnings at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, it has shown an ability to absorb aspects of other music styles and transform them into something entirely new and different. Jazz is, therefore, both a noun and a verb, as it is a way of interpreting music. In true West African tradition, jazz is shaped by the performers’ individual musical gestures and spontaneous variations. It is a music in which the performers assume the most prominent role and bear the greatest responsibility. It features certain instruments and special effects that are synonymous with the style. Many of these instrumental affectations may have been an effort to emulate the flexibility and expressiveness of the human voice. These instrumental effects alter and color the sound in unusual ways and exerted an impact on 20th century “classical” music. Although jazz is closely associated with certain instruments, any instrument can be used to imply


the style. A wide range of instrumentalists and/or singers can present jazz, from solo performers to large orchestras. Self-proclaimed inventor of jazz Jelly Roll Morton advocated that almost any kind of music could sound like jazz, as jazz is a way of playing and interpreting music in an individualistic and spontaneous way.

Emerging in the first decades of the 1900s as an unpolished folk music, jazz reflected diverse influences. Among them are the blues, marching bands, polkas, field hollers and work songs, religious music, ragtime, and, of course, West African, Latin, and Afro-Cuban music, with an emphasis on individualistic expression through improvisation. Spontaneity, rhythmic complexity, and a close association with dance are other characteristics shared by African music and jazz. Jazz has been a chameleon even since the beginning, absorbing and reflecting the musical influences present in America at the turn of the century.

Although jazz is a distinctive style, recognizable worldwide, it has been difficult to define and has confounded many critics and historians. The difficulty of defining jazz is exacerbated because it remains in a constant state of change, influenced by popular culture, advancements in technology, and the musicians’ own desire for change and self-improvement. Therefore, like the music itself, there is no absolute set of criteria for defining it. Nonetheless, different combinations of certain traits can always be found in jazz music. Jazz is a rhythmically vibrant and complex music that often includes a rhythm section (piano, bass, and drums). It is this rhythm section that eventually inspires other popular American music styles such as R & B, blues, and various rock styles. The rhythms of jazz are richly complex, creating an element of tension. Rhythm is not the sole source of this tension, for it is also found in the sometimes-dissonant harmonies and complex improvisations associated with jazz.

Some definitions of jazz assert that swing, a certain rhythmic phenomenon, and improvisation are two absolute criteria for authentic jazz. Although these can be important features, they are not entirely unique to jazz, nor are they required for the music to be considered jazz. Much contemporary jazz post-1970 does not swing in the same way jazz was played in the 1940s. Music in a jazz style may not contain much improvisation, but can still be identified as jazz. On the other hand, some non-jazz may contain jazz characteristics. For example, does jazz saxophonist Phil Woods’s improvised solo on Billy Joel’s pop hit “Just the Way You Are” make it jazz? It is not uncommon to hear improvisation in many pop and rock performances.


Jazz singer Joe Williams


Jazz has become a truly eclectic music, embracing musical styles from around the world and transforming them into a uniquely American form of artistic expression that frequently requires the performer to improvise. The blues, in itself an individualistic and spontaneous form of expression, remains an important component of jazz and a significant contribution by black Americans. Black performers have been the primary developers of jazz and blues, although some white performers and composers contributed significantly to advancing the music and to developing it as a viable commercial product. At the dawn of the 21st century, jazz can easily be considered one of the most significant musical accomplishments of the previous century and one that shows promise for continued advancement.

In conclusion, the following elements and features characterize all jazz styles:

1. Jazz evolved in the US at the dawn of the 20th century by absorbing characteristics from African music, blues, ragtime, marching bands, polkas, field hollers and work songs, religious music, Afro-Cuban and Latin music, and American folk music.

2. Jazz is an ever-changing style of music with multiple substyles and is significantly influenced by an evolving popular culture.

3. African-American performers have been the principal innovators throughout the history of jazz.

4. Jazz is a way of performing that places emphasis on interpretation, improvisation, and individualistic expression, in the African tradition.

5. It is usually the performer who is most important to a jazz performance, not the composer. 6. Although jazz began as a folk music and became an important form of music associated with

entertainment, it gradually matured to become art music, to be taken as seriously as classical music.

7. Until rock ’n’ roll attracted younger Americans’ attention, jazz had been the soundtrack for American life.

8. Rhythmic complexity, inspired by a rhythm section of piano, bass and drums, and sometimes guitar, is a predominant feature of jazz, including the special swing feel attributed to some styles.

9. Some instruments, such as the saxophone, guitar, drum set, and mutes used to color the sound of brass instruments, originated with jazz.

10. Jazz is the most unique and indigenous American art form.

The subsection “Characterizing Jazz,” found in the corresponding chapter of the companion website, provides an excellent supplement to this section and includes excerpts of interviews with many prominent performers. These artists offer their own insights into what makes this music so special. Note: All terms in bold are defined in the glossary included in Appendix I of this book and on the website.


Jazz is a music that developed in America at the dawn of the 20th century. Many styles of music and music-making that influenced the beginnings of jazz reflect the melting pot that is America. This mix includes elements from both European and African music. A product of these diverse influences, jazz is a music containing a great variety of substyles, from early ragtime and blues-influenced jazz to free jazz and rock-influenced fusion.

Succinctly defining the word “jazz,” considering its many substyles and the fact that jazz is constantly changing, is challenging. Origins of the word itself are also murky, with no single

explanation substantiated. A change in approach to improvisation is one of the most important factors in the development of the various styles of jazz, and yet examples of jazz containing little or no improvisation exist. At one time, jazz was played exclusively in a swing feel. Approaches to playing swing evolved with each new style of jazz, and, because jazz continues to evolve and adapt, embracing music styles from around the world, jazz is no longer played exclusively in a swing feel. Certain instruments and performance techniques have become associated with jazz, which can be played or sung by any number of performers. Individuality, spontaneity, and the importance of the performer instead of the composer have always been at the core of jazz.

What can be unequivocally stated about jazz is that it was pioneered primarily by black Americans, is often improvised, is rhythmically driven, and combines European, African, American, and, sometimes, Afro-Latin elements. Further, jazz continually evolves as it is influenced by technology, current events, different cultures, and music from throughout the world.


1. What are some of the theories regarding the origins and derivation of the word “jazz”?

2. Name some of the identifying or salient characteristics of jazz, regardless of substyle.

3. Jazz was the result of what primary non-European or American influence?

4. What other styles of music, European or American, were factors in the formation of early jazz styles?

5. Is the composer or performer more important to the jazz style?


The World Saxophone Quartet performing in 1992

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6. Music from what continents or regions influenced the formation of jazz?

7. Can any piece of music that was not conceived as jazz be played in a jazz style? Explain your answer.

8. An aspect of rhythmic interpretation that is unique to jazz is called ________.

9. Define the term “Creole”.

10. What style, born in America, is undoubtedly the most important African-American contribution to jazz?

11. What are the instruments or instrument groupings that are unique to jazz?


C H A P T E R 2

The Elements of Jazz Jazz did not exist until the 20th century. It has elements that were not present either in Europe or in Africa before this century. And at any of its stages it represents . . . a relationship among rhythm, harmony, and melody that did not exist before.1

—Martin Williams

“Mother of the Blues” Ma Rainey on sheet- music cover

Ha ppy Birth day To You Ha ppy Birth day To You

Ha ppy Birth day Dear Su san……………….. Ha ppy Birth

day To You………………..

EXAMPLE 2.1 Graphic representation of “Happy Birthday”

Jazz can be examined and discussed in the same ways that apply to any style of music. All music is discussed in terms of rhythm, melody, harmony, form, and texture.


Rhythm is accomplished through varying lengths of notes, combined with space, all in relationship to a steady pulse. Some notes in a melody last longer than others, and some move more quickly. So, duration is an expression of rhythm and time. Without rhythm, music has no sense of motion, and melodies would be monotonous and boring. It is the rhythm of music that propels it forward and ensures that it is not static. Without using complex musical notation, consider the graphic symbols in Example 2.1 that illustrates the familiar tune “Happy Birthday.” Some notes are lower or higher in pitch (vertical scale), some are louder than others (indicated by darker images), and some are shorter or longer in duration (horizontal scale), indicating rhythm. Silence, or rests, seems to separate some of these notes. Sing the familiar tune to yourself as you move through the graphic from left to right.

Jazz, since its uncomplicated beginnings as a folk music, has evolved to become a complex and sophisticated music. Despite the many influences and changes that jazz has experienced over a century of development, and its uniqueness when compared with other music styles, jazz shares ingredients common to all forms of music.


Although brief discussions of musical terms important to your understanding of jazz are provided throughout this chapter, you should refer to the website in order to more fully understand these concepts. The section entitled the “Elements of Jazz” provides audio demonstrations and more in-depth explanations of these terms and concepts.


Meter and Tempo

Meter defines the number of primary beats, or pulses, in each measure of music, and is the organization of rhythms. Measure (or bar) is a unit that serves as a container, holding a specific number of beats as defined by the meter. A waltz emphasizes a triple meter (1–2–3), where each measure has three beats, and a march features a duple meter (1–2), with two beats per measure.

Poetry has rhythm and meter. Sonnets, rhymes, and limericks all project rhythm and meter. Think of measures as inch marks on a ruler. In 4/4 meter, each beat would be represented by 1⁄4-inch marks, as there are four quarters to each inch. The 1⁄4-inch subdivision can be further divided into smaller increments, as is the case with music note values. To continue this analogy, how fast or slowly we move across a tape measure or yardstick, progressing from one inch to the next, is a measure of the tempo. Tempo, another concept important to the understanding of how music works, is an expression of pace or speed at which the music moves. It could also be compared to the pace of someone walking or running. Some songs seem to have no regular tempo, moving slowly and described as rubato.

It is safe to say that jazz performers and composers were content for decades to deal largely with music in duple meter—primarily 2/4 and 4/4 meters. For example, most ragtime piano music was written in 2/4 meter, and nearly all the instrumental jazz literature that followed well into the 1940s was in common time or 4/4 meter. Jazz musicians were most concerned during the first three decades of the formative years with honing skills as improvisers. Attention was focused on developing performance technique. It was not until the 1950s that jazz artists began to venture outside the safe confines of duple meters. Jazz waltzes were not popular until the 1950s and 1960s.

Old-style mechanical metronome


Listen to all or a portion of the following tracks, which serve as excellent examples of different meters. “Take Five,” for example, is in 5/4 meter. Compare “Take Five” with “Every Tub,” “Summertime,” “Pent Up House” written in the more common 4/4 meter, or “La Fiesta,” played in a fast 3/4 time. Also think about their differing tempos.

Symphony orchestras and bands have conductors to control the pace of the music—jazz ensembles have rhythm sections. There is flexibility in terms of tempo associated with a “classical” music ensemble performance. In larger ensembles such as symphony orchestras, the conductor controls the tempo. In smaller ensembles, the performers control the tempo and must work carefully together to adjust the tempo or risk a poor, disorganized performance. The rate of the steady pulse, or tempo, in a jazz or pop/rock group is consistent and generally maintained throughout the piece by the rhythm section, which is comprised of piano, bass, drums, and often guitar. Within this group of instruments, there is likely to exist a hierarchy of time-keeping responsibilities that may be somewhat dependent on the particular style of jazz. The other musicians in the ensemble must then strive to rhythmically coexist within this tempo. At times, performers in a jazz band may seem to rush or drag behind the rhythm section’s steady pulse, but it is frequently by choice, not by error. The dragging sensation is described as laying back and is often associated with the sound of a particular band and helps to define its style.

The subject of rhythm as it relates to jazz is a thorny one that has provoked debate for many years. Attempts to define the special rhythmic qualities of jazz have sometimes ended in poetic metaphors and metaphysical phrases in attempts to make feelings and individual interpretations tangible. The very existence of a group of instruments described as the “rhythm section” points to the importance of this basic musical element to the jazz style. What other music ensemble, other than in related popular music styles that share similar roots with jazz (rock, R & B, pop), includes a group of instruments known as the “rhythm section”? The emphasis on steady rhythm is a distinguishing feature of this music, and, aside from the spontaneously improvised aspect of jazz, its unique rhythmic features are among the most important characteristics establishing jazz as a truly original style.

Listen to all or a portion of the following tracks from the online audio anthology, which serve as excellent examples of different tempos. Wynton Marsalis’ “Delfeayo’s Dilemma” presents the illusion of several different tempos. “Intuition” seems to have no set tempo, while “Poem for Brass” takes some time before a steady tempo is established. Compare these tracks with the slow, but steady, tempo of “Moon Dreams.”

Rhythmic Devices Important to Jazz

The rhythmic terms syncopation and swing are synonymous with jazz. Syncopation occurs when a rhythm appears on a weak, normally un-emphasized portion of a beat (when your foot moves up), interacting with a regularly occurring rhythm or major beat emphasis (when your foot pats down). The rhythm that is normally un-emphasized becomes accented and creates a syncopation or tension.

A polyrhythm results when two or more different rhythms are played simultaneously, layered one on top of the other. One fundamental rhythm usually serves as the foundation, and other layers are added. The examples that follow clarify these two important concepts.

Much has been said about the predominance of syncopation in jazz, its importance in contributing to the unique nature of jazz rhythms, and the relationship to African music. To quote Gunther Schuller, from his book Early Jazz:

By transforming his natural gift for against-the-beat accentuation into syncopation, the Negro was able to accomplish three things: he reconfirmed the supremacy of rhythm in the hierarchy of musical elements; he found a way of retaining the “democratization” of rhythmic impulses [meaning that any portion of a beat could have equal emphasis]; and by combining these two features with his need to conceive all rhythms as rhythmicized melodies, he maintained a basic, internally self-propelling momentum in his music.2

Schuller is also defining to some degree what swing is. It is this form of propulsion or forward momentum that we feel when something “swings.”

Listen to the following track, which offers excellent examples of complex rhythms happening simultaneously and syncopations. The opening section of Keith Jarrett’s “The Windup” (0:00–0:39) juxtaposes a regular rhythm played by one hand with improvised, syncopated rhythms that work against the regular rhythm and are played by the other hand. Listen to the “Bamaaya,” the African music track in the online audio anthology, to hear complex polyrhythms played by the drummers.


1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

EXAMPLE 2.2 Illustration of a simple syncopation in measure 1 that results from handclaps on off beats that create a tension between major beats represented by the foot tapping a steady pulse. By the second beat of the second measure, the handclaps are lined up precisely with the foot tapping on beats 2, 3, and 4, hence no syncopation and no tension

1 & 2 & 3 & 1 & 2 & 3 &

EXAMPLE 2.3 Using similar graphics, the following example illustrates a simple polyrhythm. In this case, the foot taps indicate a 3/4 meter and fundamental rhythm. The hand-clapping introduces a new rhythm in opposition to the foot tapping. If the foot tapping suddenly stops, the continuing handclaps give the illusion of 2/4 meter. The combined result when both are executed simultaneously is a polyrhythm


Audio clips illustrating all of these terms used to describe various aspects of rhythm can be found in the corresponding chapter of the website. Here you can explore the subsection about rhythm.

Swing as an Aspect of Jazz Rhythm

Have you ever tried to explain how a food tastes to someone? It is almost impossible to truly appreciate the flavor of a particular food without actually tasting it. That same analogy is true for describing “swing.” It is certainly one of the most difficult characteristics to define when discussing jazz rhythm. Musicians and analysts alike have struggled to respond to the frequently posed question—what is swing? Big-band leader Count Basie, when asked to define swing, said things such as, “pat your foot” or “tap your toe.”3 Jazz pioneer Louis Armstrong is reputed to have said, “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.”4 Big-band Swing Era trumpeter Jonah Jones may have come closest when he implied that it was a feeling.5 Duke Ellington defined swing as, “the un-mechanical but hard driving and fluid rhythm over which soloists improvise.”6 None of these responses, however, provides a precise, more scientific explanation of the rhythmic phenomenon that began to be described in the 1920s as “swing.”

André Hodeir, author of the important 1956 publication Jazz: Its Evolution and Essence, said that: “jazz consists essentially of an inseparable but extremely variable mixture of relaxation and tension,”7 and that the “feelings of tension and relaxation coexist at the same moment.”8 In other words, some performers are playing things on the beat, while others are simultaneously playing syncopated accents on other portions of the beat. The combined result is a forward momentum we describe as swing, and there can be many subtle variations of swing—as many variations as there are players. Swing can be compared to skipping. When we skip, we divide our even pace unevenly, which is a characteristic of swinging in jazz. We make an otherwise even-paced walk uneven; we make it skip, even though we may get from point A to point B in the same amount of time as it would have taken had we walked with an even pace (tempo).

A sound byte is worth 1,000 words in helping to define swing. Listen to The Count Basie Band play “Every Tub.” This great band set the standard for swing, and the Basie rhythm section illustrates this concept at 0:32–0:55. You may be intrigued enough to listen to the entire track.


Melody is the result of an organization of notes that move by varying distances—by step and leap—either ascending or descending, to form a musical statement. Melody is thought of as moving in a linear, horizontal fashion. A complete musical idea or statement is often termed a phrase. The term phrase can refer to a melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic statement. Short melodic phrases are strung together to create entire tunes.

The Count Basie recording of “Every Tub” on the companion website provides an excellent example of a musical phrase. Listen to 2:02–2:17 in this track to hear the repetitive melodic phrase played by the saxophones, with brass accompaniment.

Melody is by far the easiest ingredient to understand. Melodies can stand alone, be coupled with other melodies, or be sung/played with accompaniment. Melody is the aspect of most musical styles usually remembered more easily than harmony or even rhythm. A melody is often easy to recognize and remember because it may consist of only a few notes. Most listeners identify a lyric with a melody and hear them as one ingredient. Lyrics even help to clarify the overall form or architecture of a piece. Instrumental jazz is perhaps less easily grasped because it lacks a lyric


to help listeners keep track of the various twists and turns of the melody. Remove the lyrics of a tune, and many listeners lose their way. The memorable melody of a show or pop tune that serves as the basis for an instrumental jazz treatment can become altered beyond easy recognition, as instrumentalists are not bound by lyrics. These show and pop tunes from the 1930s and 1940s were used in jazz improvisations. As jazz matured, performers discarded popular dance and show tunes from their repertoire, and the new, original jazz melodies became less easily recognized and more difficult to follow and remember.

A piano keyboard is grouped into repeating sets of 12 different white and black notes, with each group of 12 defining an octave. A melody can begin on any of the 12 different notes. Singers often practice a song in different keys, dictating they begin on a different note, until they find the one that they feel most suits the mood of the tune and best accommodates their own voice range. Have you ever tried unsuccessfully to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” or a church hymn, struggling to make the highest or lowest note? You struggled because the tune was in the wrong key for you, forcing you to start on the wrong first note. This musical key falls into one of two categories that define a tonality, usually major or minor. The major or minor tonality helps to describe the aural character of a piece of music, a melody or a single harmony. Harmony and melody work together to establish a tonality. Atonal describes a piece that lacks any specific tonality and is therefore neither major nor minor. Only some very contemporary, avant-garde jazz music lacks tonality. A song may have more than one tonality, depending upon its complexity. Tonality could be compared to a painting where many colors may be used, but one seems dominant.

Most of the music presented in the online audio anthology is considered tonal and is in either a major or minor key. Duke Ellington’s “Ko-Ko,” for example, is in a minor key. Bill Evans’s version of “Witchcraft” is an example of major key or tonality. The Ornette Coleman track “Mind and Time,” however, is a good example of atonal improvisation, as Coleman pays no real regard to key, harmony, or prescribed melody. Begin your listening either at the beginning to listen first to the composed tune or at the start of his solo at 0:23.

Go to the website section entitled “Performance Practice” found under “Listening to Jazz.” Good audio examples of homophony and polyphony can also be found as the first two excerpts on the second page of the subsection labeled, “Dissecting a Jazz Performance.”

C# D# F# G# A# C# (black keys)

D# F#


G#A# etc.

D E F G A B C etc.

EXAMPLE 2.4 Two-octave C scale. Raised half-steps in between each scale note (black keys) are labeled above as sharps


EXAMPLE 2.5 Chord symbols in a typical progression that jazz musicians must learn to interpret


Harmony is a collection of two or more notes played together and, in contrast to melody, is viewed as a vertical event, as notes are stacked one on top of another and sounded simultaneously. Chords are similarly defined. The most basic of chords is the three-note triad. Harmony is typically used to accompany a melody. A succession of chords is called a chord progression, or just progression. The harmonic rhythm defines the pace at which chords move from one to another in a progression. Most jazz tunes feature a progression of chords that creates tension followed by resolution. This practice, known as functional harmony, is based on the notion that there are certain tendencies that lead one chord logically to another. This practice serves as the basis for a high percentage of jazz tunes and American popular music. We may feel unsettled when a chord progression does not follow this principle and seems to be unresolved.

The sense of key, or center of tonal gravity, is established by the tendencies of functional harmony and helps jazz players to create logical improvisations—melodies that relate back to this center of gravity. Jazz tunes often feature only one or two key centers, depending on how many uniquely different sections there are to the tune. It is essential that jazz improvisers are thoroughly conversant in functional harmony, as it is these principles that guide the soloist to create new melodies. The best soloists can identify the chords in a progression by hearing them, without the aid of printed music.

The harmonic language of jazz is largely borrowed from light classical, popular dance, religious, and various forms of entertainment music. Aside from the blues, the earliest forms of jazz were based on marches, cakewalks, quadrilles, and polkas—all dance forms popular in the 19th century.

For a more detailed explanation of melody and keys, along with musical examples, use the website and explore the section on melody found in the corresponding chapter “Elements of Jazz.”

Use the website to gain more insight into how harmony is constructed and functions. The section about “Harmony” is found in the corresponding chapter and includes many examples that can be played, helping you to understand these concepts.

Eventually, jazz adopted a more sophisticated harmonic vocabulary, including other altered tones that were not uncommon in 20th century “classical” music by composers such as Stravinsky, Debussy, and Bartók. Chords become richer and denser as more tones are added, often creating tension.

On the website, listen to the lush, slow moving but changing harmonies (chord progression) used to support the melody of “Moon Dreams” from Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool recording. Listen to the entire track or just the opening section at 0:00–0:25.


Music can be perceived as a mosaic or fabric where melodies and harmonies interact and intertwine, serving as the tiles or fibers in the completed work. The ways in which each musical tile or fiber interacts with one another—melody with harmony, or several melodies with one another— contribute to what is described as the music’s texture. Texture can be dense or sparse, busy or static—transparent or dark and rich. These textures are further described as monophonic, homophonic, or polyphonic. Monophonic describes a single melodic line unaccompanied by harmony—for example, you singing by yourself in the shower. Music is homophonic when a melody line is supported by chord accompaniment. Homophonic textures are therefore denser than monophonic ones, because they have two layers—melody and chord accompaniment. Polyphonic music features two or more intertwined melodic lines. The different melodic lines are


EXAMPLE 2.6 Visualization of monophonic texture. The light, horizontal, wavy line represents the melodic shape of a solo singer. There are no other layers present in this single-dimensional texture

EXAMPLE 2.7 Visualization of homophonic texture. The wavy, horizontal line represents the melodic shape of a solo singer. The vertical bars represent chords, with darker shades indicating major chords, and lighter shades representing minor chords

EXAMPLE 2.8 Visualization of polyphony. The light, horizontal, wavy lines represent the melodic shape of a solo singer and a second melodic voice complementing the primary vocal melody below it. The vertical bars represent chords, with darker shades indicating major chords, and lighter shades representing minor chords. Black dots represent a rising and falling bass line in counterpoint with the melody line. The entire texture, with multiple layers of activity, is described as polyphonic


said to be moving in counterpoint (literally, note against note) to one another. If you sang “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as a round with staggered entrances, your friend beginning after you started, the resulting texture would be called polyphonic. The addition of chords, adding another layer to the texture, could also accompany the overlapping melodies in this round. Textures with a greater number of elements become increasingly challenging for the listener.

Excellent examples of these textural concepts can be heard on the companion website. For example, “Line For Lyons” offers an excellent example of polyphony or counterpoint at 0:00–0:45. Keith Jarrett’s unaccompanied solo in “The Windup,” beginning at 1:55–2:30, serves to further describe a monophonic texture, and “Take Five,” beginning at 0:22, provides a good illustration of a homophony. More dense textures can be heard in J.J. Johnson’s “Poem For Brass” excerpt.

Using Example 2.1, “Happy Birthday,” you can see and hear illustrations of many concepts discussed to this point. For example, the melody continues to ascend in the first three phrases. The melody begins to descend in the third phrase. The melody, which constantly changes direction, is constructed of close steps and wider leaps. Where is the climax reached, at least in terms of the highest note? How many phrases comprise this familiar tune? If you sang it by your self, unaccompanied, the texture would be described as monophonic. If you were accompanied by piano chords, the texture would be described as homophonic. If, after singing it once, you began again on a different starting pitch, you would be changing the key. If another person improvised another melodic line with you, they would be adding counterpoint, creating polyphony.


Form in music describes its overall architecture—how many different melodies are there? Do they repeat, and if so how many times? Are sections repeated exactly or with variation? Form gives music structure similar to the organization we find in other art forms, in nature, everyday life and in architecture (suspension bridge, building, etc.). It is an important musical ingredient to comprehend in order to understand what you hear. Although form, on the surface, may seem to be the easiest element to understand, without the benefit of lyrics and a singer it may be difficult for the untrained listener to discern.

Most jazz compositions have more than one clearly defined section. A letter—A, B, C, etc. —defines each large section in the overall form. Each of these sections usually features a distinctly different melody and accompanying chord progression. For example, ragtime pieces are often based on the following formal scheme: AABBACCDD. This form is derived from the rondo form, a European “classical” model also evident in the march and the polka. The rondo describes a form where one section (A) reoccurs and is juxtaposed with contrasting sections (B, C, D). The consecutive letters in such a scheme (AA or BB) indicate that there is a repeat of that particular theme before the move on to a new one. Often, a piece that follows this model changes key at the C section.

Listen to the recording of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” on the companion website. It is close to resembling a rondo form, with multiple themes and changing keys. Can you determine when each new theme is introduced?

Many American popular songs that served as springboards for jazz improvisations followed the song form model, usually represented by ABA or AABA. One statement of the form is often called a chorus. The return to A to end the form gives one a sense of symmetry and finality. Each section (A and B) is typically 8 measures in length. Jazz musicians often refer to the B section as the bridge or channel. The blues is the simplest of all forms, as it is usually only 12 measures long, lacking a B or C theme.

Once again, “Take Five” on the companion website offers a good example of the classic song form—ABA. Each section of the form is divided up into two, 4-measure phrases. Following a brief introduction by the rhythm section, the A section begins at 0:22, with the second phrase occurring at 0:30 through repeat of the first. The first phrase of the B section begins at 0:38, with the second phrase following at 0:45. The A section returns at 0:52, and the second phrase occurs at 1:00. The improvised solo begins at 1:08.

The Billie Holiday rendition of “Body and Soul” and Stan Getz’s recording of “Só Danço Samba,” also included on the website, provide additional examples of AABA song-form structure that is easy to follow because of the lyric content. Can you identify the bridge in these two vocal pieces?

“James and Wes” is a good illustration of a 12-bar instrumental blues based on a repetitive melody and simple form.



Extemporaneous playing; spontaneous composition; creating music on the spur of the moment. These are simple phrases to describe the act of improvising. People now think of jazz at the mere mention of the term improvisation, although there are often improvised solos in pop tunes, and improvisation is often a component of Indian and other world music. Descriptions of jazz from almost any era agree that improvisation is a salient feature. Jazz historian Ostransky stated that, in jazz, “reading music is considered a lesser accomplishment than improvising it.”9 Discussing the importance of improvisation to jazz, noted jazz scholar James Lincoln Collier wrote that, “it is always the soloist that is written about, always the solo that is analyzed.”10 Earlier writings about jazz portrayed improvisation as a mysterious or divine process, adding to the music’s mystique. Recently, more thoughtful discussions have helped understanding of the true process behind this unique form of creativity. As improvisation is an important feature of jazz, the intelligent listener needs to learn about its nature in order to develop skills for identifying and appreciating it.

Something Borrowed—The European Tradition

An early tradition of improvised music is found in medieval chants and in music from the Renaissance (c.1450–1600) and Baroque (c.1600–1750) periods. Composers were expected to deviate from the original melodies, as did Baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann when he composed the Methodical Sonatas. He provided the basic melody on one line and, on another line, suggestions for improvisations not terribly different than those used by modern jazz soloist Charlie Parker.11 In 1765, violinist and composer Karel von Dittersdorf wrote that: “A new custom developed . . . To show their improvisational creativity they [the soloists] start fantasias in which they play a simple subject which they then very artfully vary several times according to the best rules of composition.”12 Baroque composers J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel also included passages where improvisation was invited, and this practice continued until the beginning of the Romantic period (c.1820–1900). Although a fine improviser, Ludwig van Beethoven, an extraordinary composer from this period, began a new trend away from this improvisation. The increasing complexity of the music, the growth of music publishing businesses, and the increasing number

The section about form found in the corresponding chapter on the website provides a thorough explanation of form in music, with examples drawn from the jazz repertoire.



EXAMPLE 2.9 Lowered third, fifth and seventh (E flat, G flat, B flat) are called “blue notes” and are shaded in the following keyboard example

of amateur musicians caused “classical” composers such as Beethoven to seek more control over their compositions. Franz Liszt, another composer and improviser, summed up this new trend by saying, “the most absolute respect for the masterpieces of the great masters has replaced the need for novelty and individuality.”13 More attention was paid to interpretation of the musical composition as written, and, by the late 1800s, the role of improvisation was diminishing in European music. However, at the same time, in the United States new styles of music were emerging that once again placed a high value on spontaneity and individuality.

Something New, Something Blue—The Jazz Tradition

The roots of American jazz can be compared to any folk tradition—impromptu, spontaneous, and simplistic. These characteristics, as well as rhythm, lyric, and melody, were of utmost importance in early vocal styles. Perhaps the closest thing to true improvisation in the late 1800s and early 1900s in America could be found in African-American vocal styles such as work songs and field hollers improvised by slaves and chain-gang workers, and especially in the blues. This vocal style featured blue notes, slightly altered tones where a special inflection was given to the third and seventh scale tones by lowering the pitch slightly. Instrumentalists later imitated this blues vocal style.


A distinguishing aspect of many jazz melodies, improvised and composed, is the blues. Blues melodies are based on alterations of a traditional scale. Some believe that the altered thirds, fifths, and sevenths of the blues scale can be attributed to certain African singing practices. A scale is a logical progression of ascending and descending notes, arranged in half- and whole-step intervals. The piano keyboard shown in Example 2.9 makes it easy to see these two basic intervals, which serve as building blocks for all scales. Note names are labeled. The distance from C to D is a whole-step interval, and the black key in between represents a half-step interval. Scales are comprised of eight consecutive notes, following a particular key signature, and are named in accordance with the starting note. On this keyboard, the C scale would be played as C–D–E–F–G–A–B–C. The third, fifth and seventh notes of this traditional scale are altered to form the blues scale, as shown in the example. The purple- shaded notes indicate the lowered third (E flat), lowered fifth (G flat), and lowered seventh (B flat) and are referred to as blue notes. There are gradations of blue notes, as singers and instrumentalists are capable of being less precise than a pianist when lowering these pitches.

The blues scale is almost an amalgamation of pitches from the major and minor tonalities. Leroy Ostransky, author of Understanding Jazz, felt that, “early jazz players probably saw little distinction between major and minor modes [scales] and used major and minor thirds interchangeably.”14 Whatever the origins, these slightly flatted pitches (third, fifth, and seventh scale degrees) became known as blue notes and are responsible for much of the special melodic and harmonic character in jazz that distinguishes it from other forms of music. Blue notes often


help to communicate a melancholy feeling. Blues songs are sometimes associated with a depressed, downtrodden, or melancholy mood. The use of blue notes does not always, however, achieve this feeling, nor are these alterations always used to create this “blue” mood. They are merely one way to make a melodic line more personalized and expressive.

Some historians believe that the blues may have evolved as a result of African slaves attempting to reconcile their predominant five-note pentatonic scale with the Western eight-note scale and harmony they found in the US.

Gertrude “Ma” Rainey (1886–1939) and her Georgia Jazz Band, Chicago, 1923

The most unique aspect of jazz harmony for many years was introduced through the application of blue notes to chords. Those altered tones that we identify with a blues melody were eventually incorporated into the harmonies to form more colorful and dissonant chords, beyond the simple three-note triad.

The similarity between blues and pentatonic scales is illustrated by an audio example found on the website in the corresponding chapter.

Go to the corresponding section of the website (Chapter 2) and you will find audio examples further helping you to hear what the blues sounds like. The online audio anthology includes examples of blues from two different periods of jazz history—“St. Louis Blues” and “Jimmy and Wes.”


Improvisation in Jazz

As a whole, the earliest jazz instrumentalists were not known for their ability to improvise new solos each time they performed. Typically, these early musicians performed a piece nearly the same way each time, once their approach to a particular song had been refined. Their playing was largely a theme and variation style in which a melody was merely embel lished and ornamented in new ways. Thematic variation is the simplest form of improvisation and is probably what Alphonse Picou (1878–1961), a New Orleans clarinetist, referred to when he described this early form of jazz as a “style of playing without notes.”15

The study of the development of early instrumental jazz is difficult because, during this era, the music could be preserved only in a written format, or passed on aurally. No audible artifact remained for study, as recording technology had not yet been invented. As each jazz performance is an interpretation of a composition, the printed page could not totally capture the live performance and its unwritten subtleties. However, after the turn of the 20th century, jazz became perhaps the first music to be greatly influenced by the advent of sound recording, for it directly paralleled the growth of jazz. (See the brief history of recording included on the website.) Recordings provided lasting aural artifacts that faithfully reproduced the live performance other musicians could now be influenced by and could imitate. Recordings were also responsible for the very rapid changes in jazz, compared with the slower pace in previous musical history, where one style was popular for decades before a significant change occurred. Recordings, though, became both an asset and a disadvantage. On one hand, they quickly spread the music and were models for younger musicians trying to learn through imitation. On the other hand, musicians with a popular record now found that the public often wanted to hear live performances exactly

Photo of a jazz band in a radio studio, broadcasting, circa mid to late 1920s

as they remembered the record ing. The pressures of popularity, customer satisfaction, and marketing could then discourage improvisation.

As jazz matured, largely through the work of Louis Armstrong in the mid 1920s, the concept and importance of improvisation solidified. There are many levels of improvisation at work within the hierarchy of a jazz ensemble. For example, drummers and bassists probably improvise the greatest percentage of the time, though often what they play is not new to them. They rely on familiar patterns that they have played many times. There is no precise duplication, however, and what they improvise often depends on the style of the tune, the tempo, and, of course, with whom they are playing. The amount of improvisational content in a particular performance is dependent, to a great extent, on the size of the ensemble and the intent of the music. Larger ensembles usually mean a lesser amount of improvisation, whereas small ensembles, such as trios and quartets, rely a great deal more on improvisation. Jazz aimed at a dance audience usually features less improvisation, because the music assumes a more subservient role.

Improvisation inspires a musical dialogue between the soloist and rhythm section, each complementing the other, while suggesting new ideas for elaboration as the improvisation evolves. Many performers have described the jazz solo as a story with a beginning, middle, and end. To tell a good story, there are characters; in musical situations, memorable melodic phrases serve the role of characters and are often repeated with some variation to provide continuity to an improvisation. The performer’s duty is to take the listener on a journey. The more listeners are led to predict musical outcomes in this journey, the more engaged they are in the performance. But, if they can predict too much, they become bored and unchallenged. Listeners can easily tune out when a high percentage of what they hear is unpredictable or previously unexperienced.

Jazz soloists are faced with creating spontaneous, new melodies; however, they must adhere to certain guidelines. With each new style of jazz came new and often more chal lenging principles to which the soloist must adhere in order to gain the respect of peers and audiences while advancing the art form to a new level. Jazz players have learned about music theory and have developed the ability to hear harmonies. Each improvised solo, usually referred to as a chorus, should build as the musical story unfolds. The notes chosen must relate to the same progression of chords used to accompany the original melody. The only thing written out in the music for the soloist (and rhythm-section players) is a series of symbols that represent these chord structures. This form of abbreviated chord notation is shown in Example 2.10. It is the result of years of dedicated practice and inspiration that enables a jazz soloist, given only this simple, cryptic chart of information, to construct a moving, engaging, and coherent improvised solo.

To ensure that their improvisations are consonant with these harmonies, soloists use certain tools, such as scales and modes that relate to harmonies (chords), to help them negotiate a pro – gression of chords in order to construct new, melodic improvisations. Soloists also use the notes of the chords themselves in order to improvise new melodies. It is a difficult process, as choices must be made on the fly. To allow the creative side of the brain time to recover from being spontaneous and consider what to play next, soloists often rely on “licks,” or pre-learned patterns and phrases. These phrases, used throughout an improvised solo, often refer to the tradition, as they may be quotes of melodies played by another soloist years earlier. Even the great improviser


EXAMPLE 2.10 Typical jazz chord progression illustrated by symbols

Charlie Parker, in a bebop improvisation, quoted a Louis Armstrong solo recorded many years earlier. These quotes and memorized phrases can be strung together in many different ways to create new material. Phrases borrowed from the tradition could be compared to the many ways that we can express an idea in words. For example, take a phrase such as “The new-fallen snow is beautiful.” This simple idea could be expressed and embellished in many different ways. One could have said, “The new snow that fell last night is beautiful,” or “New snow like we got last night is really beautiful.” These multiple means of expression are exactly what jazz players employ when they use a pre-learned phrase and put it to use in an improvised solo. In using a pre-learned phrase, the soloist creates the illusion of pure spontaneity for the listener. Although the sequences of pre-learned ideas are assembled and reassembled in new ways from performance to performance, many of the memorized ideas can be repeated. Ostransky wrote about this phenomenon in his book The Anatomy of Jazz. He said, “They [jazz improvisers] do not compose on the spur of the moment; their significant improvisations are the result of long practice and experience.”16

Through years of listening, borrowing, assimilating, analyzing, and imitating, soloists amass a collection of jazz phrases that suit their individual style and can be recalled at any time in the course of a solo. In other words, soloists play what they enjoy playing. Therefore, not everything played during a jazz solo is spontaneously created. These solos, more frequently than not, are based on a series of recreations—bits and pieces of pre-learned material coupled with newly created ideas to form fresh, new improvisations. In the fall of 1958, the then well-known swing band leader/composer Duke Ellington traveled to England for a tour with his orchestra. He expressed his thoughts and feelings about jazz improvisation in an article entitled, “The Future of Jazz” included in the souvenir program. In this article he said:

There are still a few die-hards who believe there is such a thing as unadulterated improvisation without preparation or anticipation. It is my belief that there has never been anybody who has blown even two bars worth listening to who doesn’t have some idea about what he was going to play, before he started. If you just ramble through the scales or play around the chords, that’s nothing more than musical exercise. Improvisation really consists of picking out a device here, and connecting it with a device there; changing the rhythm here, and pausing there; there has to be some thought preceding each phrase, otherwise it is meaningless.17

Other forms of quotes used by jazz soloists include humorous ones, such as “Here Comes the Bride” (from the opera Lohengrin by Richard Wagner), which almost everyone knows, and melodies from other standard tunes that fit the particular chord progression. Quotes of this nature sometimes serve as homage to earlier players and a display of machismo, demonstrating to fellow musicians and informed listeners how much is known about the tradition. The player’s ultimate objective is to have an effective dialogue with the other musicians, while creating exciting new ideas and incorporating appropriate aspects of the tradition. To quote contemporary trumpeter Tom Harrell, “He improves on his heritage, but he also tries to invent music that has never been heard before.”18 Only the greatest soloists, the true virtuosos on their instruments, are capable of spontaneously creating a high percentage of completely new material each time they improvise. The most innovative improvisers in the history of jazz were those who dared to break from tradition and forge new pathways that relied less on what had come before.

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