Dissertation Index

Author: DeMotta, David J

Title: The Contributions of Earl \"Bud\" Powell to the Modern Jazz Style

Institution: Graduate Center, City University of New York

Begun: September 2008

Completed: May 2015


This is an analytical study of pianist and composer Bud Powell\'s contributions to modern jazz (a.k.a. bebop or \"bop\"), focusing especially on the rhythmic and harmonic implications of Powell\'s improvisations. The analysis is informed by a series of interviews with professional jazz musicians and is supported by original notated transcriptions of Powell recordings. The aim of this project is to present a cogent technical and theoretical account of Powell\'s musical style that is grounded in the values of the contemporary jazz community and reflects that community\'s continued passion for and engagement with Powell.

Chapter One, \"Contemporary Pianists and Bud Powell\'s Music,\" summarizes the ways that eight professional jazz pianists conceive of Powell\'s contributions to contemporary performance practice and to their individual musical styles and paths of development. The participants explain the ways in which they engage with Bud Powell\'s music as listeners, students, teachers, and performers, speaking passionately about Powell\'s genius and providing accounts of how their study of Powell\'s music has contributed to their own development as artists and pedagogues.

Chapter Two, \"Bud Powell\'s Improvisations and the Aesthetics of Modern Jazz Rhythm,\" explores how Powell\'s improvised solos creatively encapsulate the textural and rhythmic essentials of the modern jazz style. Special attention is paid to the relationship between Powell\'s music and the textural developments of the rhythm section, especially advances in jazz drumming and the underlying harmonic rhythm as temporal reference. Topics include asymmetry of phrase placement and structure in relation to meter and cyclic form, irregular accents and left-hand \"bombs,\" beat-one avoidance and negative accents, harmonic displacement, phrasing \"over the barline,\" and cross-rhythmic groupings.

Chapter Three, \"A Model For Harmony and Voice-leading in Bud Powell\'s Linear-Melodic Improvisations,\" describes the harmonic implications of Powell\'s improvised lines. This analysis examines Powell\'s concept of harmony and voice leading during his negotiation of descending-fifths sequences and related progressions through a five-strand voice-leading model based on chord tones.

Chapter Four, \"A Case Study of Harmonic Paths and Voice-leading Discontinuities in Powell\'s Negotiation of Subdominant Tonicizations in `I Got Rhythm\' Related A Sections,\" is a study of Powell\'s improvisation over measures five through eight of \"rhythm changes\" A sections, which present an obstacle to the descending-fifths-based harmony and voice-leading apparatus described in Chapter Three.

Chapter Five, \"Flatted Fifths in Bud Powell\'s Harmonic Approach,\" discusses the various ways in which Powell saturated his music with a sound essential to bebop, the dominant seventh flatted fifth chord. Discussing Powell\'s incorporation of this and related devices throughout his compositions and improvisations and in situations that vary in mood and tempo, this chapter offers a window into Powell\'s creative process by illustrating his ability to maximally exploit one highly idiomatic element of his vocabulary.

Keywords: bebop, Bud Powell, jazz analysis, jazz rhythm, jazz voice leading, modern jazz



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