Dissertation Index

Author: Lukas Gabric

Title: Coltrane Plays the Blues: Multi-Level Coherence and Stylistic Tendencies

Institution: The CUNY Graduate Center

Begun: August 2015

Completed: September 2020


As a principal musical figure of the twentieth century, John Coltrane created a legacy that still resonates with listeners. Similarly, the blues may be regarded as one of the most iconic genres of the twentieth century. This dissertation examines Coltrane’s shifting stylistic tendencies to the blues and explores structural relationships with reductive voice leading analysis. As a variation form, the blues poses issues of continuity since every chorus may be regarded as self-sufficient and internally closed. Voice leading analysis provides a powerful explanation for the fact that Coltrane’s blues solos may be perceived as structurally unified. I also develop a topology of Coltrane’s use of sentence structures and analyze how they express and reinforce deeper structural levels on the middleground and foreground. While voice leading analysis à la Schenker has been applied to jazz, no publications exclusively explore Coltrane and his blues output. The scope of the dissertation ranges across Coltrane’s entire career, including his earliest recordings, which are virtually unexplored in scholarly research. Since Coltrane’s blues output has not been systematically addressed, I hope that my project will lay the groundwork for further discourse.

Keywords: John Coltrane, BAM, Jazz, Blues, Schenkerian Analysis, Sentence, Formenlehre


Chapter 1. Methodology: Analytical Apparatus and Periodization
Chapter 2. Early Coltrane: “Now’s the Time” (1946) to “Strange Things All the Rage” (1953)
Chapter 3. From Sideman to Leader: “Two Bass Hit” (1955) to “Mr. P.C.” (1959)
Chapter 4. “The Last Blues”



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