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Chapter 4

The Style Analysis Process

Preliminary Remarks
An effective analysis of a performers improvisational style must take
into consideration the special characteristics of the music which make it a jazz
performance. In reality, jazz has the same variables as any Western music,
however, it has exploited some of these elements in distinctive ways. 1 The
music commands a style analysis of the full range of elements- rhythm,
melody, timbre, harmony, and form which must be considered within their
historical context.2
There is no commonly accepted coherent method of jazz analysis,
however, Lawrence Gushee has summarized four approaches or types
encountered in the jazz literature. These are motivic, formulaic, schematic,
and semiotic analysis:3
Motivic4 This type of analysis includes the demonstration of organic relations,
development, climactic (tension-release) structure, and logically connected
ideas. Its boundaries are the work (improvisation) itself.

1 Carol Louise Heen, Procedures for Style Analysis of Jazz: A Beginning Approach (Ph.D.

dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1981), 28.


2 Ibid., 28.
3 Lawrence Gushee, Lester Youngs Shoe Shine Boy, in A Lester Young Reader, ed. Lewis

Porter (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), 224-254.


4

Frank Tirro, Constructive Elements in Jazz Improvisation, Journal of


the American Musicological Society, (1974), 285-305. Gunther Schuller,
Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1968); idem Sonny Rollins and the Challenge of
Thematic Improvisation, Jazz Review 1, (November 1958), 6-11, 21.

Formulaic5 This approach comprises the labelling of phrases according to the


lexicon, and an appropriate choice of compatible formulas, with relaxed
logical requirements. Its boundaries include the improvisers collective style.
Schematic6 (or chorus phrase) Is the analysis of the generation of specific
expression by transformation of fundamental structures (including a tune or
chord progression as well as other patterns). Its boundary is the process of
forming.
Semiotic7 A great deal of the popular literature on jazz falls under this
category. Gushee posits that it comprises the meaning as given by the system
of signs. A decoding of the mythic structure where the boundary is the culture
itself.
We have considered and integrated where possible, and to varying
degrees, some of these approaches with the style analysis methods and
criteria of Jan LaRue,8 Jerry Coker,9 and David N. Baker.10 We perused and
adopted a wide-range of approaches in order to acquire the critical tools (from
both scholars and performers) to effectively illustrate and explain the most
distinctive

idiosyncratic

surface

features

of

Wes

Montgomerys

improvisational style.
5 Thomas Owens, Charlie Parker: Tehniques of Improvisation, 2 vols. (Ph.D. dissertation,

UCLA, 1974).
6 Alfons M. Dauer, Improvisation: Zur Technik der spontanen Gestaltung in Jazz,

Jazzforschung/Jazz Research 1, (1969), 113-32.


7 Andr Hodeir, Jazz Its Evolution and Essence, Trans. David Noakes (New York: Grove

Press, 1956).
8 Jan LaRue, Guidelines For Style Analysis (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1970).
9 Jerry Coker, The Jazz Idiom (Englewoods Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1975), 13.
10 David N. Baker, Jazz Pedagogy (Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Publishing Company, Inc., 1989),

66-67.

LaRues Style Analysis


LaRues Guidelines for Style Analysis, originally published by W.W.
Norton in 1970, is a comprehensive method for explaining musical
organization.11 His ideas, procedures, and analytical symbols have been
widely used by researchers and his method has grown to occupy a prominent
place in the musicological field. 12 It is especially useful for jazz analysis
because it tries to interpret the music in terms directly relevant to the
performers and listeners point of view. That is, as something experienced in
time and not simply quantified or reduced to abstractions on paper. 13

14

In his

guidelines Jan LaRue describes the five components used as the basis for style
analysis: melody, harmony, rhythm, sound, and growth (form). Each of these
elements will be used to investigate Wes Montgomerys improvisations in their
large, middle, and small dimensions as needed. The large dimension
11 The second edition (Harmonie Park Press, 1992) retains most of the original text intact.
12 There have already been successful attempts at incorporating LaRues procedures in the

style analysis of jazz. See Carol Louise Heens, Procedures for Style Analysis of Jazz: A
Beginning Approach (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1981), and Robert
Jacksons Analysis of Jazz: A Method Combining Coker and LaRue. In C. Brown (ed.),
Proceedings of the Ninth NAJE National Convention (Vol. 2). Manhattan, Kansas: NAJE,
1982, 96.
13 Floyd K. Grave, Review: Jan LaRue, Guidelines for Style Analysis, The Journal Of

Musicology, Vol. XI, no.2 (1993), 270.


14 Jos A. Bowen, The History of Remembered Innovation: Tradition and Its Role in the

Relationship between Musical Works and Their Performances, The Journal of Musicology,
Vol. XI, No.2, (1993), 139. Bowen expresses quite clearly the difficulty in using notated
sources to establish the relationship between the musical work and its performances in the
field of jazz: ...it (jazz) so clearly demonstrates that even the most sophisticated scores do not
alone contain musical works and that performances of the same work can vary dramatically.
Jazz is still in the process of translation into written form, so there is little or no temptation
to confuse the score with the musical work. Also, while it is difficult to discuss objectively the
differences among the various performances of a Beethoven sonata, every performance of the
same musical work in jazz will actually differ in pitch content. Repeating an exact pitch
sequence is even considered cheating.

encompasses the musical whole, that is, select choruses, a complete


improvised solo, or a vehicle type. In the middle dimension the emphasis is on
exclusive sections of an improvisation, such as one chorus of a solo, or subsections of a chorus encompassing sixteen or eight-bar segments. The small
dimension is concerned with the smallest complete idea, that is, a motive, a
subphrase or a phrase.

Three Stages of Style Analysis


The three main stages of style analysis are background, observation,
and evaluation.15 In our study the background comprises some frame of
historical reference and some idea of the conventional procedures used in jazz
improvisation. Therefore, all observations of Montgomerys style were first
assessed against conventional jazz procedures and standard vocabulary of the
epoch. This was done in an attempt to discard superfluous observations and
avoid imputing originality and importance to something which was essentially
common practice.
The second stage of style analysis requires that from the outset one
concentrate on significant observation.16 Once we had established that an
observation was relevant, we assessed it against Wes collective work (through
listenings and transcriptions) to make sure that it was worth recording. 17
LaRue posits as a cautionary guide that truly significant observations keep a
balance between what can be deduced only after hours of study and what can
be readily noticed by a careful listener after several hearings. 18 Consequently,
15 LaRue, op. cit., 2.
16 Ibid., 4.
17 Ibid. LaRue promotes this procedure and adds that, otherwise we will quickly accumulate

such quantities of observations that we will drown in our own data, a danger particularly
noticeable in computerized analysis.
18 Ibid.

the basic premise was to listen systematically and chronologically to every


recording Wes Montgomery made for Riverside, and then compare and
evaluate his solos for consistencies and irregularities. This type of systematic
comprehensive listening to the recorded evidence is often the only reliable
information the jazz historian possesses. 19 We have also considered and
listened to the totality of Montgomerys remaining non-Riverside recordings,
even if they were at times, regarded as lesser works.
In the final stage, LaRue proposes the cumulated evaluation of a piece
of music according to intrinsic, comparative, and external standards. 20 It is
inevitable that during the process of selecting significant observations of Wes
style some evaluation naturally occurs. This evaluation tends to enter
discreetly in our expectations and once we detect a tendency or trend in an
improvisation, we expect more of it elsewhere. This type of evaluation looks
inward (intrinsic) into the solo itself, preparing us mainly for decisions about
the improvisation. With comparative standards, Montgomerys stylistic facets
of particular interest are assessed against those of other contemporary
guitarists, and his solos are compared with other vehicles of similar nature.
Also

within

comparative

standards,

the

imaginative

depth

of

his

improvisations, comprising the range of expression and richness of


techniques, is essential to our evaluation. For external standards we looked
beyond the comparative musical considerations to matters such as the
timeliness of Montgomerys stylistic reception and impact in the jazz world.

19 Gunther Schuller, The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930-1945 (New York:

Oxford University Press, 1989), x. This monumental work by Schuller adheres totally to the
principle of comprehensive listening. His basic premise, which we have adopted, was to listen
to every recording of an artist, orchestra, or group that would come under discussion.
20 Ibid., 21-22.

David Bakers Style Analysis21


Both David N. Baker and Jerry Coker are influential educators,
performers, and authors on the American jazz scene. They have written
extensively on the subject of jazz improvisation. David Baker has transcribed
and analyzed improvisations of many jazz musicians such as Miles Davis,
John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, Fats Navarro, Clifford
Brown, etc.21b He systematically synthesizes his findings and organizes them
in a clear and concise musico-historical perspective through the use of his
style and analysis form. This form includes specific stylistic elements one
must inevitably consider in the analysis of modern jazz. 22 These include
analyses of tune types (or vehicles) such as blues, ballad, modal, standard,
free, jazz original, bebop, Latin/Afro-Cuban, etc. Baker also itemizes a list of
dramatic devices commonly used in jazz performances. These include vibrato,
slurs, rips, growls, glissandi, articulation, alternate fingerings, harmonics,
etc. Specific improvisational developmental techniques normally associated
with jazz performance practice are also itemized for evaluation. 23 The
following is an analytical form by Baker illustrating select elements to be
considered in jazz style analysis:
Tune type:

blues
ballad
modal
standard
free

jazz original
bebop
Latin/Afro-Cuban/etc.
other (specify):

21 David N. Baker, The Jazz Style of John Coltrane (Miami: Studio 224, 1980), 34-37.
21b Professor Gordon Foote (McGill University) has noted that some of these transcriptions

were done by David Bakers graduate students and contain some errors.
22 Our definition of modern jazz includes all developing styles after 1940 (i.e. Bebop, Cool,

Hard-Bop, Free, Fusion, etc.)


23 Use of quotes (what and where), use of sequence/call and response, etc.

Tempo:

Key:

Dramatic devices (circle and describe):

vibrato
slurs
rips
growls
glissandi
articulation (specify):

alternate fingerings
harmonics
other (specify):
Tessitura:
Scale preferences:

major (and derivatives)


whole tone
diminished
diminished whole tone
lydian dominant

blues
pentatonic
chromatic
other(specify)

Prevailing scale patterns:


Recurrent patterns:

(a) II V7
Turnbacks
Cycles
(b) Melodic patterns
(c) Rhythmic patterns
d) Other formulae (I VI II V; III VI II V; half step
progression, etc.)

Performance Practice

Developmental techniques: (circle and describe)


simple to complex
complex to simple
single climax
many climaxes
vertical
horizontal
chord referential
thematic referential
use of sequence/call and response
use of quotes (what and where)
use of substitutions
rhythmic practices: double time
half time
assymetrical groupings
reiterative
non-reiterative
describe the relationship to the basic time:
melody:

Jerry Coker

folk-like
wide expressively
narrow expressively
riff-like

bluesy
bebop
quartal
other (specify):

In his book The Jazz Idiom,24 Jerry Coker recommends placing a


numeral digit (1-13) over each pitch of a solo transcription. With (1) being the
tonic note of the chord and the remaining numerals corresponding to the
ascending chromatic scale. This shows the relationship of each pitch to the
root of the chord assigned to that measure or beat, and enables us to perceive
more effectively the pitch choices for all chords that were selected or heard by
the soloist. This procedure assists the analyst in locating consecutive digits
that recur in other parts of the solo, perhaps as a reused pattern or clich.
This analytical technique was especially helpful in our investigation of the
various harmonic superimpositions, extensions, and substitutions employed
by Montgomery.
Coker also provides an effective system for classifying formal structures
used in jazz, and recommends a list of criteria for analyzing and evaluating
jazz performances: 1) Sound - the tone quality, which can range from small to
large, mellow to brilliant, or dull to lively. Nearly all jazz players can be
identified by their sounds alone. 2) Technique - the speed, evenness, and
clarity of execution (finger dexterity, etc.). 3) Time - the consistent accuracy
and feeling of the pulse. 4) Tonal materials - the selected chords, scales, and
emphasized notes in the improvisation. 5) Spirit/drive - the emotional feeling,
vitality and conviction of rhythm and pulse. 6) Lyricism - melodiousness 7)
Repertoire - the selected vehicles, their general types (modal, blues, standard,
bebop, contemporary and free-form). 8) Versatility - the inclusion of many
vehicle types and their corresponding approaches and feelings, or simply, the

24 Jerry Coker, The Jazz Idiom (Englewoods Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1975),

13.

10

capacity to change without becoming less effective. 9) Innovation - the


qualities of inventiveness, creativity, and originality. 25

Reductive and Processual Models


It has been noted that the majority of analytical models of jazz
improvisation have treated improvisation as an object or artifact; these
reductive models ultimately see improvisation as a product. 26 John Brownell
effectively argues that the methodology of jazz scholars has been the
methodology of their predecessors and contemporaries with historical reliance
on Western music theory and the score. He appears to favor the processual
model (Charles Keils term)27 that treats improvisation as a process of
dynamic unfolding rather than a static object: Improvisation is essentially a
performance practice, and it is inappropriate to apply to it analytical methods
developed in the context of the written record.28 Elsewhere he contends that,
The traditional approach of Western music theory has been to treat
music as being completely represented by a graphic record.
Improvisation, because it bypasses the intermediate step of
representation, has been regarded as a craft rather than an art, as it
allows for no contemplation or revision. In this view, improvisers create
on the spur of the moment, off the cuff, make it up as they go along, and
25 Jerry Coker, Listening to Jazz (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1978), 45-66,

74-76.
26 John Brownell, Analytical Models of Jazz Improvisation, Jazzforschung/Jazz Research,

Vol. 26 (1994), 10. Many scholars, notably Schuller (1958, 1964, 1968, 1984), Tirro (1967,
1974), Porter (1983, 1985), Stewart (1973, 1979) and Koch (1974) have treated transcriptions
of improvisations as compositions in their own right, as objects to which the conventional
methods of Western musical analysis may be applied.
27 Charles M.H. Keil, Motion and Feeling Through Music, Journal of Aesthetics and Art

Criticism, Vol. 24, (1966), 337-49.


28 Brownell, op. cit., 19. Smith (1983), Gushee (1958, 1970, 1977), Keil (1966) have been

concerned with the processual nature of improvisation.

11

therefore (so the theory goes), their product should not be evaluated by
the same aesthetic criteria as composed music.29

Although Brownell disparages the reductive approach which, in effect, has


contributed most profoundly and extensively to development and growth of
jazz scholarship, he acknowledges the uncertainty of his own preferred
processual models. He states that the dynamic nature of jazz improvisation
has led to alternative views of the process of spontaneous creation, such as
attempts to formulate a theory of improvisation based on the principles
borrowed from both literary theory and structural linguistics. 30 Brownell
recognizes that because of the superficial similiarities between music and
language, these processual models of improvisations offer some insights that
previous models do not. He admits, however, that it is difficult to know how
far to take the analogies suggested. In Charles Seegers terms, our speech
knowledge of improvisation (which is fundamentally different from music
knowledge of the same) is lacking. 31 Brownell also recognizes that the dual
nature of the term itself contributes somewhat to the ambiguity surrounding
the discussion of improvisation. He cites Philip Alperson, who notes that
improvisation can be both an act and a product,
but it is not always clear what is being discussed. Sometimes the
activity under discussion seems to be a variety of performances,

29 Ibid., 23.
30 Albert B. Lord, The Singers of Tales (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960). Fred

Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff, Toward a Formal Theory of Tonal Music, Journal of Music
Theory, Vol. 21 (1977), 111-171. Alan M. Perlman and Daniel Greenblatt, Miles Davis Meets
Noam Chomsky; Some Observations on Jazz Improvisation and Language Structure, In
Wendy Steiner, ed. The Sign in Music and Literature (Austin: University of Texas Press,
1981).
31 Brownell, op. cit., 23.

12

sometimes a kind of composition, other times a kind of editorial activity


which blurs the performance/composition distinction altogether.32

It will become apparent that the prevalent reductive model was used in
this study, since we treated the recordings of improvisation as objects or
products to which certain conventional methods of Western musical analysis
could be applied. This, of course, was done only to the extent where the
methods could be applied effectively and relevantly to jazz improvisation
without jeopardizing the analysis. The transcriptions, as imperfect as they
may be for the study of jazz, were only employed as intermediary visual
representations of the music on the recordings, and used principally to clarify
our analytical commentaries. It is evident that in our analyses of sound
(dynamic, texture, attack, intensity) and rhythm (swing, time-feel) we
reverted exclusively to the recordings, since transcriptions as objects cannot
adequately represent these elusive, but aesthetically indispensable elements
of jazz. This also explains the absence of musical transcriptions in the
analysis of sound (chapter 4) or in the analysis of Montgomerys time feel
(chapter 7).

32 Philip Alperson, On Musical Improvisation, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol.

43 (1984), 17-29.