Dissertation Index

Author: Love, Stefan E

Title: On Phrase Rhythm in Jazz

Institution: University of Rochester

Begun: June 2010

Completed: April 2011


Phrase rhythm is the interaction of grouping structure and metrical structure. In jazz improvisation, these structures behave in ways that theories of phrase rhythm designed for classical music cannot accommodate. Specifically, jazz improvisation involves the superimposition of a highly flexible grouping structure on a pre-determined and predictable metrical-harmonic scheme. In this context, theories of phrase rhythm that depend on voice-leading or harmony neglect the subtleties of grouping structure.

In this dissertation, I present a new method for the analysis of jazz phrase rhythm. I classify each phrase based on its relationship to the metrical hierarchy, as manifested in two characteristics: 1) the pattern of metrical accents it overlaps (prosody), and 2) its occupation of metrical units, from one to eight measures in length. For example, a 4-phrase occupies a four-bar hypermeasure, and may be beginning-, end-, un-, or double-accented. The basic phrase-types may be combined and altered in various ways.

I include detailed analyses of fifteen solos on several different forms, including AABA, ABAC, and twelve-bar blues. Throughout an improvised solo, phrase rhythm fluctuates between states of consonance and dissonance, as the grouping structure variously supports or contradicts the metrical structure. Phrase rhythm thus contributes immensely to this music’s aesthetic value.

Keywords: Jazz, phrase rhythm, phrasing, meter, improvisation


Part I: Theory
Introduction: What is Jazz? What is Phrase Rhythm?
Chapter 1: Meter and Grouping in Jazz
Chapter 2: The Analytical Method

Part II: Applications
Introduction to Part II
Chapter 3: Thirty-Two-Bar Schemes in AABA Form
Chapter 4: Thirty-Two-Bar Schemes in ABAC Form
Chapter 5: The Twelve-Bar Blues
Chapter 6: Metrically Atypical Schemes
Chapter 7: Some Pedagogical and Analytical Extensions

Works Cited
Index of Recordings and Transcriptions
Appendix A: Glossary of Terms and Notations
Appendix B: Complete Transcriptions and Analyses



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