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Motivic Strategies in Improvisations by Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau

Timothy Page
Kirjallinen Ty 1ss10 Kevt 2009 Sibelius-Akatemia


I. Introduction II. Biographical Sketches III. Method A. Choice of Source Material B. Transcription C. Motivic Analysis: Assumptions and Approaches D. Motivic Chain Associations E. Schenkerian perspectives on Motive IV. Analysis A. MCA Analyses B. Motivic Transformation C. Motivic Glue D. Motivic Parallelisms, Higher-Level Motives E. Linear Aspects of Motivic Organization V. Conclusion Sources Discography

I. Introduction

As with any art form, "style" in jazz improvisation is the sum total of a countless number of factors. Alongside time feel, melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic vocabulary, and preferences regarding improvisational forms, one important category in determining style has to do with approaches to use of motive in improvised melodies. Keith Jarrett (1945 --) and Brad Mehldau (1970 --) are two jazz pianists whose playing is highly motivic. They are also both frequently mentioned in the same sentence: Mehldau has for example been touted as the heir apparent to such impressionist masters as Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans (Collins 2006) and said to be reminiscent of Jarrett, (JazzTimes 1997), while Jarrett has been called Mehldaus obvious forebear, (CD Universe 2008). It has even been rumored that Jarrett at one point threatened a lawsuit against the younger pianist for stealing (his) piano trio concept.1 Recordings of the two pianists do in fact reveal clear points of comparison: Perhaps most immediately perceptible is a shared flexible rhythmic approach, and a comparable sound color in their pianisim. In this investigation I will nonetheless take some issue with claims of similarity between the two players by drawing distinctions between their respective motivic strategies, or ways in which they use motives to create a sense of coherence in their improvisations. This will be done via examination and comparison of motivic aspects of Jarrett's and Mehldau's melodic improvisational technique as exhibited in the right-hand melodic improvisations from Jarrett's performance of "Just in Time," from his Standards in Norway album, and Mehldau's performance of "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," from his album Art of the Trio, Volume I. I will first map out surface motivic connections in each solo using the categories of motivic chain association proposed by Ekkehard Jost (1970). The motivic chain association analyses will be used to draw some generalizations about each players approach to use of surface motives in constructing phrases. It will be argued that Jarrett shows a higher tendency than Mehldau to treat his motivic material transformatively, recycling and accumulatively manipulating small motivic cells over the course of his phrases, and creating poignant sense of forward developmental motion. Mehldau, it will be argued, in turn displays a greater

From a conversation with Jari Perkimki (2008)

propensity to use motivic elements as relatively static points of reference, separated by spans of music of variable length, that thematically bind his solo together. Employing a more Schenkerian perspective, I will then discuss some examples of motivic parallelisms and higher-level motives -- those operating underneath the surface of the music. Both players will be shown to employ motivic elements, often derived from the original compositions over which they improvise, on more than one structural level. Finally, I will give a preliminary comparison of each player's approach to organizing surface motivic material by way of linear voice-leading events implicit in the harmonic forms over which they improvise. It will be proposed that Jarretts improvised melodies show a higher tendency than Mehldaus to be directed by linear voice-leading events inherent in underlying harmony.

II. Biographical Sketches Keith Jarrett was born on May 8, 1945 in Allentown Pennsylvania2. His musical proclivities were noticed very early on by his parents, and he began taking piano lessons by the age of three. By the age of seven he was already giving classical recitals, in which he sometimes included his own compositions. Significantly, his interest in composing was such that he arranged some years later to study with Nadia Boulanger -- an opportunity that he ultimately backed out on. He began to get into jazz at the age of 15, spurred on by experiences listening to players such as Dave Brubeck and Bill Evans. Two years later he received a scholarship to study at the Berklee College of music in Boston, which he attended for one year before being kicked out due to his unwillingness to follow the curriculum. After a period of low profile club performances in Boston, he moved to New York in 1964. Shortly thereafter, he had his professional breakthrough when drummer Art Blakey happened to hear him play at a jam session at the Village Vanguard at a time when Blakey was shuffling personnel in his Jazz Messengers. Jarrett's tenure with Blakey lasted only four months, but their one recording together, Buttercorn Lady, shows that he was entirely fluent and competent in the hard bop idiom. Jarrett's next regular gig was with saxophonist Charles Lloyd's quartet, an engagement that lasted nearly through the rest of the 60s. The quartet's sound was rooted in

Biographical details in the following three paragraphs are taken from Carr, 1991.

the modal and avant-garde jazz pioneered by John Coltrane during roughly the same time, and already a big stylistic departure from the more straight-ahead bebop flavor of Blakey's. After Lloyd, from 1970 to 71, Jarrett played and recorded with Miles Davis during the height of Davis's so-called fusion period. Then in 1973 he began to give improvised solo concerts. Jarrett solo improvisations constitute a genre of their own. While drawing on perhaps all of Jarrett's stylistic influences to date, from gospel to classical to avant-garde jazz, they very often feature repeating ostinato figures and tend to be highly diatonic, sometimes showing kinship to the music of minimalist composers such as Philip Glass, Terry Riley, and Steve Reich. Other notable activity during the 70s included Jarrett's work with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek, who pioneered what is often classified today as "Scandinavian jazz." This music is often characterized by textures that are rhythmically free, and harmonically modal. At the end of the 70s, Jarrett also began performing classical music publicly It was in 1983 that Jarrett made the surprising decision to form a trio devoted to performing the so-called "standard" jazz repertoire, the popular American songs from movies and musicals of the 20s, 30s and 40s as well as some of the compositions of bebop players from the late 40s and 50s. These are the compositions that comprise the harmonic structures most commonly used by jazz players for their improvisations, from the inception of the bebop style in the mid-40s through the early 60s. Since 1983, Jarrett has almost exclusively devoted his involvement in jazz to this so-called "Standards" trio with drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Gary Peacock. It is from this trio's recording of Just in Time off of the Standards in Norway record of 1989 that I have transcribed the Jarrett solo under consideration. Brad Mehldau was born in Jacksonville, Florida on August 23, 1970, and spent much of his childhood in West Hartford, Connecticut. He began playing at the age of four, studied classical piano from age 6 to his early teenage years, and began to study jazz at the age of 11 after being impressed by an Oscar Peterson recording (Jung, 2008). Another early influence shortly thereafter was apparently Keith Jarrett's Bremen and Lausanne solo concert recordings (Jung, 2008). Mehldau's professional jazz studies began in earnest after high school in 1988 at the New School for Social Research in New York, where among his teachers were Junior Manse, Kenny Warner, Fred Hersch, and the legendary bebop drummer Jimmy Cobb. One of Mehldau's first professional engagements was with Cobb's band in

1991, where he apparently displayed his mastery of the hard bop style associated with pianist Wynton Kelly (Ouellette, 2007). His big publicity breakthrough came in 1994, when he recorded with saxophonist Joshua Redman. In 1995 he made his recording debut as a bandleader for a trio, with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossi. This album contained mostly jazz standards, and a couple of Mehldau's original compositions. Already on his first album, there are aspects of his sound that are audible in all his subsequent recordings: a classical like touch, a flexible, "laid back" time feel, a predilection for odd meters in his interpretation of standards, and a harmonic and melodic vocabulary that is an extension of the bebop idiom. Since the 1995 debut, most of Mehldau's recording output has centered around his trio, which maintained the same lineup until 2005, when Jeff Ballard replaced Jorge Rossi on drums.

III. Method

A. Choice of Source Material

Given both Jarrett's and Mehldau's highly diverse backgrounds and stylistic interests, it is fair to ask how any one performance of either player could be considered sufficiently representative of his motivic improvisational technique to warrant generalizations. Furthermore, supposing a sufficiently representative solo to be found for each player, on what bases can two solos be compared to one another? The short answer to the first question is that no one solo can be considered representative of either player's entire improvisational oeuvre. I have purposely limited my inquiry to Jarrett's bebop performances with his Standards Trio from 1983 onward, and Mehldau's performances of pieces from the standard repertoire with his own trio from 1995 onward. On the basis of repeated listening to nearly every recording of Jarrett's trio since 1983 (and having done numerous transcriptions of his solos), I am confident in stating that Jarrett's approach to bebop style improvisation has remained largely consistent over the two and a half decades since the trio's formation. In the case of Mehldau, the situation is a bit different. For one, he was only 25 at the time his trio began to record in 1995. In the recordings he has made with his trio over the last 12 years, it is easy to hear continual branching and development in the relatively young player's stylistic preferences and

harmonic vocabulary. However, while his repertoire has become more and more diverse and dominated by his own compositions (as well as arrangements of contemporary and classic rock tunes), Mehldau still periodically records tunes from the standard repertoire. While there are aspects of his playing that certainly remain consistent across his entire recorded oeuvre,3 I observe consistency especially in his interpretation of standards. This consistency lies in, among others, phrasing, melodic and harmonic vocabulary, and -- most significantly for this inquiry -- motivic strategies. From the limited set of solos belonging to performances of jazz standards, I ultimately sought solos that were not only representative, but also exemplary -- those that especially left an impression of coherence, and even prior to close analysis sounded especially motivic. On the basis of countless auditions and cursory analyses, Jarrett's solo on Just in Time from the 1989 Standards in Norway recording appeared to offer one of the most compelling recorded examples of his improvising. A similar process led me to Mehldau's solo on I Didn't Know What Time It Was off his Art of the Trio, Volume 1 from 1997. In previous scholarly work concerned with comparison of improvisational technique between two players, it has been customary to use a recording of the same tune by each player (e.g. DeVieux 1997, 79). In the case of Jarrett and Mehldau, this would have been possible: both players have recorded, for example, All the Things You Are, Solar, and It Might As Well Be Spring. However, I decided to sacrifice the convenience of comparing improvisation over identical harmonic and formal structures for the sake of presenting these players "at their best" with regards to audible "motivicness" and coherence. In Mehldau and Jarrett's performances of the tunes just mentioned, I determined that either pianist or both failed to offer a particularly exemplary solo. The lead sheets for Just in Time and I Didnt Know What Time it Was are reprinted below from the Real Book:

Jazz pianist Robert Glasper states, "give me a quote blindfold test any day, and Ill pick out Brad in a few hats. (Oulette 2007)

Ex 1: Irving Berlin, Just in Time from The Real Book II, in which it is reprinted without permission.

Ex 2: Lorenz Hart and Richard Rogers, I Didnt Know What Time it Was, from The Real Book III, in which it is reprinted without permission.

In the performances under consideration, both players more or less adhere to the versions above, with some small changes: Mehldau has transposed I Didnt Know What Time it Was into D-minor, substituted a G7 for the B half-dim.7 in the second measure of the A sections, substituted an F-minor phrygian chord for the final harmony, and inserted a progression between I and VI in the 6th bar of every A section, C# maj 7 - F# maj 7 - B maj 7, which is despensed with on the solo choruses. He has also adjusted the meter by adding an extra beat between beats two and three, creating a 5/4 meter consistently divided into 3+2. Jarretts performance of Just in Time deviates from the above version in its lack of preparation of the Bb major chord in m.20 of the form, and substituting the chords in mm.2324 with the progression Eb-min7 - Ab7 - D-min7 - G7. These small adjustments by no means change the fact that there are considerable similarities in the types of harmonic progressions employed in both compositions; II-V-I progressions are ubiquitous, and both compositions contain extended passages based on cycles of descending fifths. Thus, both compositions offer a similar -- though not identical -harmonic environment for organization of motivic material. Rhythmically, however, there are some significant differences: I Didnt Know What Time it Was maintains the general pattern of 2 chords per bar in Mehldaus 5/4 setting. Just in Time has a slower harmonic rhythm, generally with one chord per bar. This discrepancy is slightly mitigated by the extra beat per measure in the Mehldau. One important factor in the feasibility of an improviser to truly "compose in the moment," and not rely mostly on well-rehearsed melodic formulas and patterns is tempo. While ability certainly varies from player to player, many players4 have attested that they are able to construct thought-out phrases only up to a certain tempo, after which their fingers "take over" and fall into well-known patterns. Jarrett's interpretation of Just In Time begins at a tempo of quarter note = 230 and slows to about 210 over the course of his solo, giving an average tempo of around quarter note = 220. Mehldau's performance of I Didn't Know What Time It Was stays steady at about a quarter note = 190. The tempo discrepancy between the two performances is appreciable, even enough so to be reflected in a difference between the two players' rhythmic articulation of eighth notes; Jarrett's eighth notes are noticeably straighter than Mehldau's. Tempo, then, is another variable not perfectly

such as my own teachers Andy Jaffe, Mike Kokour, and Samuli Mikkonen.


controlled for in the ensuing comparative analysis of each player's use of motive. But the tempos are close enough to place both performances in the category of "medium-up-tempo swing," with both solos clearly dominated by lines subdividable into eighth notes. And the performances are slow enough so that motivic development is feasible in general -- as each player empirically demonstrates.

B: Transcription

The current investigation is concerned with motivic aspects of the improvised melodic lines in the two performances in question. Accordingly, I have based my analysis on transcriptions that are limited to the right-hand melodies improvised by each player following their statements of the original melody. References will be made to the harmonies implied by left-hand chords only in so far as they have bearing on the melodic-motivic features being dealt with. Jarretts entire solo on Just in Time lasts eight choruses, in contrast to the two choruses of Mehldaus. In order to keep the amount of source material from each player on comparable footing, I have limited my analysis and transcription to the first four choruses of Jarretts solo, along with the two complete choruses of Mehldaus. As Scott DeVeaux has noted, "transcription is interpretation," (DeVeaux 1991, 32) and the two transcriptions presented here are no exceptions; while traditional notation is perfectly sufficient to convey information about pitch when the instrument in question is piano, it has its limitations in conveying nuances in rhythm and articulation. In both transcriptions I have followed the standard practice of using conventional eighth notes to notate so-called jazz eighth notes which at medium to fast tempos are generally performed as something between and . This is less of an approximation in the

case of Jarrett than in that of Mehldau, whose solo is slow enough to allow for eight notes that are a bit more swung (i.e. sound closer to ). Since eighth notes are treated as

equivalent between the two solos, this particular difference in rhythmic nuance between the two players is taken to have no bearing on motivic features under consideration. In the Mehldau transcription, additional rhythmic approximations are necessary, since Mehldau sometimes shows a tendency to play "around" the pulse, and cram in odd numbers of notes a melodic runs before landing on the beat. I have approximated these effects by


using tuplets that closely mimic what is heard in the performance. The tuplets used are not intended to convey motivic content in and of themselves. As for dynamic articulation, the principal variable taken into account in the transcriptions is accent. As discussed below, accents can have bearing on whether or not pitches can be considered to be structural -- which in turn can have motivic implications. There is of course a continuous dynamic spectrum between an unaccented pitch and a highly accented pitch. I have tried to notate accents whenever they are especially clear and seem to have structural significance.

C: Motivic Analysis: Assumptions and Approaches

In his article 'Der Tod das ist ein Khle Nacht' Op.96/1. Motiivianalyysin Ongelmia. (Problems Of Motivic Analysis), Risto Visnen offers a lively survey of some of the pitfalls encountered in the discipline of motivic analysis as it has been historically applied to European art music (see Vaisanen 1998). Among the most pernicious has been a fixation, especially prevalent in various early to late-mid 20th-century analytical circles, with demonstrating the "unity" of works to be analyzed. "Unity" in such cases generally refers to a work's "organic growth" from a small number of "seeds" or motives, and is taken as an assumed property of the great masterworks (see e.g. Reti 1952, Rufer 1952, Schnberg 1975). Analysis here often consists precisely in demonstrating how entire works in fact grow out of a single motive. This problematically circular approach is not unheard of in analysis of jazz improvisation. A particularly notorious example is Gunther Schuller's 1958 analysis of a Sonny Rollins solo on the tune "Blue Seven," in which he shows how the entire solo "organically grows" out of a two-note motive stated at the solo's beginning (Schuller 1958). As Visnen has argued, the inherent circularity in these sorts of analyses has practical consequences: the analyst operating in this vein is potentially guided far more by the goal of demonstrating relations to the motivic seed or seeds posited than by salient features of the music. And the rules and principles underlying motivic analysis have long been flexible and indeterminate enough so that its practitioners are able to relate nearly any span of music back to a given motivic seed (Visnen 1998, 32-34, 61) If "unity," and "organicism" were prevailing buzzwords in early to late-mid 20thcentury analysis of European art music, a comparably ubiquitous term in jazz analysis might


be "coherence." On up to the present, jazz analyses abound in which the author seeks to demonstrate in one way or another the coherence of the music in question. (See e.g. Cogswell 1995, Jost 1970, Korman 1999, Larson 1998, Meehan 2002, Schuller 1958). The prevalence of such studies might be understood in part as stemming from a defensive stance against jazz's detractors -- those who have argued that jazz is "incoherent" in comparison to European art music -- carried over from a time in which jazz and its analysis were still gaining academic acceptance5. But whatever the motivation behind these coherence studies, the notion of coherence itself is far less problematic than that of unity. This is especially true if coherence is understood foremost as an experience produced in the listener/analyst by the music under investigation, and not some assumed, inherent, and hidden property of the music to be brought to light by the analyst -- as was often the case with "unity." Coherence, then, is not something to be proven or demonstrated, but something to be explained: what are the technical features of the music that might help one experience it as being coherent? My aim in the present analyses is to show how motivic features in the Mehldau and Jarrett solos under consideration may have a role in creating a sense of coherence, and compare the ways in which they do so for each player.

D. Motivic Chain Associations

"After you initiate the solo, one phrase determines what the next is going to be. From the first note that you hear, you are responding to what you've just played: you just said this on your instrument, and now that's a constant. What follows from that? And then the next phrase is a constant. What follows from that? And so on and so forth." (Max Roach in Berliner 1991, 193)

Drummer Max Roach's comment underscores a common feature of jazz improvisation: in the course of developing some "idea" or musical element, an improviser might come upon a new musical element which is subsequently developed. This may in turn lead to a new idea, and

Putting jazz improvisation on par with classical music as an object of analysis was almost certainly one of Schuller's motivations behind the article alluded to above. Schuller was a longtime advocate of African-American jazz's acceptance in the white, classical concert world.


so on, so that material is thematically "chained" together over the course of phrases, choruses, or even entire solos. In appreciation of this phenomenon and its implications for motivic developmnet, analyst Ekkehard Jost coined the term "motivic chain association" (abbreviated MCA), a broad concept that in practice seems to encompass nearly any kind of audible motivic relatedness between elements of a melodic line (see Jost 1970). In his analyses of free jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman's solos, Jost categorizes the types of motivic chain associations as follows (Cogswell 1995. Examples of each category are taken from the present analyses of Jarretts solo on Just in Time and Mehldaus solo on I Didnt Know What Time it Was.)

1. MCA - rhythm: the repetition of a single rhythmic pattern or the similarity of two rhythmic patterns Ex 3:

(Mehldau, mm.5-7, 9-11)

2. MCA - pitch: the repetition of a pitch arrangement or the similarity of two pitch arrangements: Ex 4:

(Jarrett, mm. 7,11)


3. MCA - contour: the resemblance in contour between two melodic motives

Ex 5:

(Mehldau mm. 24-5, 29-30)

4. MCA - variation: A. Initial variation: the creation of two phrases that begin with the same motive Ex 6:

(Jarrett, mm. 19-21)

B. Terminal variation: the creation of two phrases that end with the same motive Ex 7:

(Jarrett, mm. 103-106)


5. MCA - Dovetailing: the creation of two phrases for which the ending of the first phrase and the beginning of the second phrase contain an identical motive Ex 8:

(Jarrett, mm. 33-37)

6. MCA - Repetition: restatement of a melodic motive in essentially unaltered form Ex 9:

(Mehldau mm. 5-6)

7. MCA - Step progression: the creation of an embedded melodic line, moving in step, within a larger melodic line. Ex 10:

(Mehldau mm.1-8)

These different types of MCA are by no means mutually exclusive; simultaneous instances of MCA pitch, rhythm, and contour, for example, are of course possible and quite common.


These categories have been taken up by Michael Cogswell and Norman Meehan in melodic analyses of improvisations by Coleman as well as free jazz pianist Paul Bley (see Cogswell 1995, Meehan 2002). Analysis for all three aforementioned analysts largely consists of identifying the types of motivic chain associations as they occur in the improvisations in question. Josts system raises some questions, both semantic and substantive: As MCA labels can be applied to even just two, isolated melodic fragments, the "chain" in the term "motivic chain association" would often seem superfluous. Moreover, it is not entirely obvious that all these categories belong in the same list; Depending on one's understanding of the term "motive" -- an issue glazed over by all three analysts -- the "stepwise progression" category, for example, might seem out of place. Is a stepwise progression an actual motivic association between parts of a melody, or is it more a non-motivic structural principle of that melody's overall organization? More importantly, the exact criteria for identifying "similarity" of a kind implying motivic chain association are a bit fuzzy. How close, for example, do two pitch arrangements need to be in intervallic content in order to constitute MCA-pitch? And whether or it not it portends to be, this is certainly not an exhaustive list of the ways that one part of a melody can be associated with another part of a melody. In spite of these shortcomings, the MCA perspective is a fruitful starting point in mapping out motivic relations between parts of a melody, and one that will be employed in my own analysis. The aforementioned analysts' relatively haphazard use of the term "motive" may ultimately be to their credit: implicit in their analyses is an understanding of the concept that is flexible enough to cover a very wide range of ways in which two or more bits of melody might be associated with each other and aid in creating a sense of coherence over a particular span of music. "Motive" is defined phenomenologically in the context of the surrounding music; an element of melody, whether it be rhythm, pitch, contour, etc., becomes motivic as soon as it appears to have an appreciable role in generating subsequent material. This flexible, contextual definition of motive will be invoked in my analyses as well. As for the issue of similarity criteria, all three analysts implicitly accept a degree of subjectivity, relying foremost on audibility in deciding what actually counts as an instance of MCA. But as long as subjective aural impressions can be corroborated by objective features


of the music, this approach should be deemed acceptable6. In my own analyses, audibility is also one of the primary criteria for identifying and/or verifying instances of MCA. In cases in which a similarity is deemed significant but somewhat tenuous, I have put the relevant parameter in parenthesis (i.e. MCA (p), r = clear rhythmic similarity, less clear pitch similarity) In addition to similarity criteria, MCA analysis also requires some principles for determining when an clear association between two items is not worth notating: Should every group of two notes in a descending, eighth-note scalar run, for example be marked as MCARepetition? Again, it is context that determines the significance of a motivic association. In my own analyses, scalar runs are generally treated as filler material that may connect items of higher motivic significance. A single stepwise progression, however, can be considered motivic in the proper context. Even with such criteria and principles established, one important area in which Jost's system needs much supplementation is that of motivic transformation -- the gradual altering of motivic material over successive statements of that material. While MCA labels can show that successive statements of motivic material are related, they tell little about how the motivic material might change from statement to statement, and whether there might be specific processes underlying that change. This requires some additional vocabulary, which will be introduced as needed in the analysis.

E. Schenkerian perspectives on Motive

The MCA categories are concerned primarily with motivic features on the surface of a melody. Their only acknowledgment of different structural levels in a melody occurs in the category "stepwise progression." Here, the notes that prominently spell out stepwise progressions are held to be of higher structural importance than the notes between them. But protracted stepwise progressions are not the only way that structurally important pitches in a melody might have motivic implications; one possibility not addressed in MCA categories is

The converse, however, need not always be the case, i.e. significant motivic relations may exist that are not readily audible. This is especially so in the case of motives that exist on a higher-than-surface level, to be discussed below


that of "motivic parallelism" -- appearances of motives that recur on higher-than-surface structural levels and/or exist on more than one structural level. In his later writings, Heinrich Schenker discussed a number of ways in which a melodic motive can repeat itself on different structural levels of a composition (Burkhart 1978, Cadwallader and Pastille 1992). Charles Burkhart standardized "motivic parallelism" as an umbrella term for the variety of phenomena discussed by Schenker in this vein (Burkhart, 1978). In the context of tonal European art music, to which the concept was originally applied, a motivic parallelism often involves a surface motive being mirrored by important, structural voice leading events at a higher level. In this context, a pitch is deemed more or less "structural" based on its harmonic and contrapuntal importance relative to an underlying harmony or harmonic progression. In mm.1-2 of the Chorale St. Antoni from Brahms Haydn Variations, for example, the initial neighbor note motive on the melodic surface is nested within the next highest structural level's neighbor-chord progression, which expands the tonic and spells out the same motive in the melody:

Ex 11: Brahms, Haydn Variations, mm.1-3

Another kind of motivic parallelism concerns motives that are apparent only on higher-than-surface levels. These "high-level motives," as they have been dubbed by Cadwallader and Pastille (Cadwallader and Pastille 1992), are "unfolded" in various ways on lower structural levels, but don't necessarily appear prominently on the surface itself. For example, in the E-flat minor prelude from Book I of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier a descending third is spelled out by pitches of relative structural importance in a number of ways on various structural levels, but occurs relatively rarely on the surface of the music:

Ex 12 (reprinted from Burkhart 1978, 149):


Cadwallader and Pastille have remarked of such high-level motives that they are "'basic motives' of the tonal system -- figures that recur at middle ground levels and regulate the development of lower-level motives in contrasting passages and sections throughout the tonal system." (Cadwallader and Pastille 1992, 135) In other words, they are not particular to individual compositions. Applying similar Schenkerian concepts in analysis of bebop improvisations by Charlie Parker, Henry Martin has done extensive research in trying to identify motivic parallelisms like the type exhibited in the Bach example above (see Martin, 1996). While the current investigation is primarily concerned with surface motivic features, it will also identify isolated instances of motivic parallelisms similar to those in the both the Bach and Brahms examples. One of the challenges in applying Schenkerian perspectives to bebop is deciding which pitches over a given harmony can be considered structural (Larson, 1998). There is a tendency for pitches that would be considered unstable in the context of tonal European art music to be treated as stable in jazz harmony: sevenths, ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths are frequently (but not always) used as chord tones that do not resolve to adjacent consonances (thirds, fifths, sixths, and octaves.) Most Schenkerian analysts of bebop acknowledged this (e.g. Strunk 1996, Larson 1998, Martin 1996), but nonetheless classify stability hierarchically, considering octaves, fifths, and thirds and sixths to be more structural than other chord tones that might appear to be treated as consonances in certain contexts (see Larson 1998, 212-213). On this issue, the current investigation will generally follow their examples. However, in certain contexts it will employ a slightly more holistic notion of what constitutes a melodic pitch's "structuralness." In this not so strictly Schenkerian context the


term "structural" can refer simply to audible prominence: "structural pitches" are often support points in a melody, some of which can be determined by harmony, but some of which can be determined independent of harmony via a combination of rhythm, articulation, and/or position in a melodic contour. 7 Since it was developed in conjunction with analyzing the 1960s free jazz of Ornette Coleman, in which the harmonic structure of compositions performed had little or no bearing on the melodies improvised, the MCA system in fact remains entirely silent on issues of harmony and voice leading. But since both performances under consideration here belong more or less to the bebop idiom, and the compositions over which the improvisations take place are essentially tonal, harmony certainly has implications for how motivic material is organized in both cases. One of the conjectures put forth in this investigation is that Jarrett has a higher tendency than Mehldau to organize his motivic material in such a way that harmonically structural voice leading events (in the Schenkerian sense of the term) implicit in the harmonic form are emphasized in his melodic lines. It would be outside the scope of the study to do a comprehensive Schenkerian voice leading analysis of both solos. But in key passages, in which either player appears to be particularly guided by voice leading considerations in his manipulation of motivic material, I will include some basic Schenkerian-like reductions. In the case of Just in Time, a middle-ground reduction of the original composition is also provided to elucidate what emerges as an important motivic parallelism operating in multiple passages in Jarretts solo.

IV. Analysis

A. MCA-Analysis Below are the transcriptions of the two solos, including a complete MCA analysis of each. Abbreviations employed in the analysis are as follows: p = pitch, r = rhythm, c=contour, i.v.= initial variation, t.v. = terminal variation, dove = dovetailing, step = stepwise progression). To Josts categories I have added additional qualifiers (inv) and (ret) for situations in which inversion and retrograde relationships are especially manifest. This is in fact the sense in which the concept of "structuralness" is invoked in Jost's MCA category of stepwise progression mentioned above.









B. Motivic Transformation

The MCA analyses above leave little doubt that both solos are highly motivic. A conspicuous contrast that emerges between the two, however, is the relative density of different types of MCA closely linked together in Jarretts solo. In the solo on Just in Time, small motivic cells on the surface of the music are constantly recycled, but subtly varied in close proximity to each other, continually generating new material that is motivically associated with the immediately preceding material. This lends his improvisation a certain kind of forward, developmental thrust that is not as prevalent in the Mehldau. This contrast is underscored by the comparative ubiquity of wholesale repetition in the Mehldau: The above analysis counts 38 occurrences of MCA - rep in the 360 total quarter-note beats of Mehldaus solo, compared to 11 occurrences in the 512 beats of Jarretts solo. In practice, tightly linked, varying types of MCA are generally indicative of motivic transformation, processes in which motivic material undergoes alteration over some number of statements. Motivic transformation can be in varying degrees multidirectional or unidirectional. Unidirectional motivic transformation involves processes in which discrete, minor alterations to some initial motivic material accrue sequentially, preserving in each successive statement the alterations from each previous statement. In multidirectional transformation, alterations are not always preserved from statement to statement, and more freedom is taken with the number of alterations introduced in any given statement. The solo on Just in Time contains copious instances of each, but shows an overall tendency to towards the unidirectional variety. The beginning of the solo offers two short, intertwined examples of unidirectional motivic transformation. In the two-bar lead-in to his solo, Jarrett twice repeats D-C neighbor note figure, a diatonization of the ubiquitous D-C-sharp neighbor note figure from the original melody, helping one to hear the first melodic fragment of the solo proper as being divided into two cells A and B, indicated in the simplified analysis below:

Ex. 13: Jarrett, lead in + mm.1-8


In the next fragment (mm.2-3), a metrically displaced pseudo-sequence of the first, the major second descent of A becomes a minor third (MCA p, c, r). The third fragment (mm.3-4) begins with A', then deviates from the two initial cells until the next measure when A' is inverted and expanded by an extra pitch to become A'' (MCA p, c(inv), (r)). In m.6, neighbor note figure B has become double neighbor B' (MCA p, c, r). It recurs in the next measure, rhythmically augmented and permuted, as B'' (MCA p, c). Underlying both these brief transformations are the processes of intervallic and rhythmic expansion. It is interesting to compare this passage to the way in which Mehldau begins his solo:

Ex 14: Mehldau, mm.1-8

After paraphrasing the original melody with figure X, Mehldau seems to immediately diverge from the motivic material of which X is comprised. But in m. 4, he calls attention, via articulation and repetition, to the chromatic embellishment tenuously marked X' (a relatively common formula in bebop improvisation). Apart from the initial half-step descent and lack of a repeated unison, this figure has the same intervallic content of the opening gesture in fact leaving it interpretable as a motivic parallelism. It also has the overall contour of a descending step, a feature shared by the opening gesture that appears to determine the course of the rest of the phrase; a structural, downward stepwise progression in D minor in fact already starts in m. 3, as indicated in the complete MCA analysis above. Z is an element that is not manifestly related to the opening gesture. But the rhythmic trajectory of repetitions of


Z allows a seamless insert in m.6 of another X', which, when combined with a leap to the repeating note figure Y from the opening gesture, creates Z''. These features all create a high degree of motivic connectedness and produce a sense of coherence in the passage, but they dont comprise the kind of frugal, tightly packed motivic transformation on display in the opening of the Jarrett solo. A more long range, though equally transparent example of motivic transformation in Jarretts solo occurs at the beginning of the fourth chorus. As shown in the simplified analysis below, we have a short melodic fragment A0 that gradually grows into a more complicated structure over a series of modifications:

Ex 15: Jarrett, mm. 96-110

After its first statement, figure A0 is metrically displaced and incorporates an incomplete upper neighbor note before it's final pitch, becoming A1. In A2, the first-quarter note of A1 is embellished by a downward leap of a fourth. After a literal transposition of the figure, it loses its remaining quarter note, becoming A3. A2 appears again in m.102, its latter half transposed up by a step. Between each of these successive six statements, there are at most two modifications. The statement of A4 breaks the unidirectional pattern somewhat, introducing more degrees of separation, but it is nevertheless easily associated with A1: the upbeat is augmented to a quarter note, the initial interval is shrunk to a minor third, a quarter note repetition is added, the whole step between B-flat and C becomes an augmented unison, and a punctuation mark of a falling sixth is added to the end (incorporating the rhythmic and enharmonic intervallic separation between the end of A2 and the beginning of A3 in mm. 101-102). If A4 is somewhat of a deviation from more or less unidirectional pattern of the


transformation, the remaining figure A5 picks up where that process left off, reintroducing the tremolo gesture (this time with an interval of a major second), and substituting incomplete upper neighbor eighth notes of the other figures with the major sixth downward leap in quarter notes enharmonically taken from the previous figure. A5s rhythmic placement also gives it a heightened association with the departure point of the passage, A0. It is interesting to note that within the relatively multidirectional transformations between A3 and A5 there is at least one entirely unidirectional process: the shrinking of each figure's initial interval by a half or whole step, from a perfect fourth to a major second. Finally, in the beginning of the longer eighth-note run in m.106, the upbeat portion of figure A5 becomes a diminished triad to the upper neighbor of the following downbeat, and the falling 6th is filled in by a major triad and chromatic descent, producing A6 -- a fragment that bares very little resemblance to the passages original departure point A0. An equally striking example of tightly packed unidirectional motivic transformation occurs in beginning of the Jarretts second chorus, shown here with its complete MCA analysis to better convey its motivic intricacy:

Ex 16: Jarrett, mm. 29-48


Figure B0, which grows out of the tail of figure A becomes B1, as part of the dovetailing of m. 34 into the following phrase. This phrase concludes with the B2, related to B1 by inversion and reversal of the final eighth note. In B3, the final descent of B2 expands to a fourth. In mm. 40-41, B3 (or its first three pitches) is dovetailed into a transformation of itself, labeled B4. The relationship between B3 and B4, marked here as MCA - c, r, is highly audible because of the similarity of rhythm, the leap down on the final eighth note, and the outline of a fifth between the first and last pitches. B5 rhythmically augments the final pitches of B4, contracting the final interval to a fifth. And B6 adds one intermediate and two final notes to the final pitches of B5. While instances of motivic transformation certainly occur in Mehldau's improvisation, they tend to be of a much shorter range than the process just described, with their final product generally quite similar to their point of departure. At the end of m. 60 in Mehldau's solo, for example, the four note scalar ascent X undergoes the following transformation: after being transposed and rhythmically displaced but otherwise unaltered, it is rhythmically diminished at the beginning of 63, and then intervallically augmented (appearing in its original rhythm). Running parallel to this brief process is a liquidation of the eighth note "filler material" between the statements of this idea.

Ex 17: Mehldau, mm.60-63

Another brief and slightly more unidirectional transformation occurs at the end of the solo:

Ex 18: Mehldau, mm.69-72

The three-note, descending scalar figure in m. 70 is given an extra initial eighth note triplet (in addition to being rhythmically displaced relative to the meter) in m. 71. In m. 72 the


initial interval is expanded to a third, while the rest of the figure reverses direction, launching an ascending scalar run to end the form. Mm. 43 through 46 offer another case of motivic transformation. In this case we start with a somewhat larger structure that is subsequently liquidated in a multi-directional fashion.

Ex 19: Mehldau, mm. 43-51

In X1, X0 loses its upper arpeggio, one of the initial repeated notes, and its lowest note, but gains a chromatic grace note and a rhythmically augmented repetition of the first descending interval. X2 regains a repeated note and the final note of the descent from X0. X3 gains an embellishment and once again loses the final note of the descent. X4 expands the initial interval to a fourth, otherwise mimicking X3. Finally, X5 retrogrades the final arpeggio of X4 before launching scalar material not immediately related to the original figure. Due to this transformations multidirectional nature and features that remain common between all the melodic fragments in question -- in particular the descending arpeggiated triad -- the passage is perhaps heard less as a process than as relatively static riffing on an idea. This is something that occurs frequently in Mehldaus solo.

C: Motivic Glue

Where Jarrett creates a high degree of continuity in his solo by creating motivic associations as part of transformative processes like the ones described above, Mehldau shows a tendency to use motivic associations to relate events that are separated by larger spans of music, which in its own way helps to create a sense of thematic coherence in the solo as a whole. While the chain in motivic chain association is a particularly apt


metaphor for the kind of motivic work on display in the Jarrett solo, Mehldaus approach often might seem better characterized by the term "motivic glue." One of the most conspicuous examples of a motivic element that recurs throughout Mehldaus solo is the rhythmic idea introduced in m. 5, a repeating figure with a duration of two quarter-notes, which becomes displaced relative to the 3+2/4 meter as it is repeated across the bar line:

Ex 20: Mehldau mm.5-7

This rhythm is immediately taken up in the next passage, its pitch content changed into a descending chromatic scale, where it is used as the common basis for two parallel 4-bar phrases (the only example of such a phrase construction in either solo under investigation):

Ex 21: Mehldau mm.9-16

After this, the rhythm always appears in conjunction with ascending or descending scalar material that is locally diatonic:

Ex 22: Mehldau, mm.31-36

In its final appearance, it undergoes the brief transformation already described above:


Ex 23: Mehldau, mm. 69-72

In all the occurrences of this figure, it is not merely the rhythm (or pitch content) of each repeated unit that is motivic, but also the phenomenon of metric displacement brought about by its repetitions across the barline -- a feature difficult to convey with the MCA labels. It should be noted that appearances of this figure account for 25 of the 38 instances of MCA - rep tallied in Mehldaus solo. Though it may aid in creating a sense of thematic coherence in the solo, the multiplicity of passages with extended repetitions of this figure underscore the solos relative lack of forward developmental thrust in comparison to Jarretts; not once does Jarrett repeat an motivic idea over multiple bars without somehow varying it in the process. Another type of motivic glue that Mehldau employs throughout the solo is his use of motivically related "signals" beginning on beat 1 that end many of his phrases:

Ex 24: Mehldau

Interestingly, these closing signals undergo transformation over the course of the solo. But since they are generally separated by lengthy spans of music and their transformation is fairly multi-directional, they are not heard as something that moves the music forward; rather, they are binding points that remind the listener where the music has come from. The figure in m. seven, ending the solo's second phrase, clearly harkens back to the solo's opening in m. 2, by virtue of the repeating B-flat, but with the addition of an initial falling fifth. The same figure, slightly stretched out rhythmically, also ends a phrase in m. 24. Its next occurrence closes the first chorus in m. 36, with the falling fifth inverted to a


rising fourth, and an additional leap added in between the repeating Fs. It is quickly answered by the end of the next phrase, inverted back to its original contour, with the added leap turned into a lower neighbor note. To this point, the transformation has been unidirectional. In m. 57, it takes back its form from m. 24, with an added grace note and the fifth turned into a major third. Finally, this major third becomes a falling sixth in m. 67. That these figures refer back to each other so effectively is due both to the consistency of their rhythmic placement (always beginning on beat 1) and the scarcity elsewhere of material rooted in the repeating note figure that caps the solos opening gesture; the only instances not included in the above excerpts are in mm. 17 to 18, where Mehldau riffs on a repeating E, and the figures in mm. 43-47, and mm. 64-65. Jarrett employs recurring phrase-closing motives as well, but in more local contexts. In the second half of the second chorus, (mm. 46-63) for example, he ends nearly every phrase with an ascending or descending leap of a third:

Ex 25: Jarrett mm. 46-65

Jarrett only twice returns to this phrase-closing motive (mm. 110, 120) in subsequent choruses, so it does not have the same solo-wide, audible cohesive function as does the phrase-closings of Mehldaus solo8.

The leap of a third may however be considered a yet another surface manifestation of a stepwise descending filled-in third, a motive that would appear to operate prominently on


As the MCA analysis of Mehldaus solo indicates, motivic associations also exist between the beginnings of many of his phrases, especially in the latter half of his solo. The connections are perhaps less audible than those of the closing signals described above, partly due to differences in their rhythmic placement, but they provide motivic connectivity nonetheless:

Ex 26: Mehldau

The quarter note figure in m. 26 is the first in the solo to emphatically to use pitches immediately derived from a stack of fourths. The beginning of phrase that launches the second chorus in m. 37 begins on the downbeat with eighth-note triplets, but emphasizes intervals like those in m.26 (Due to the prominence of the c-f fourth in this figure, it has been tenuously marked as a dovetailing from the end of the previous phrase in the MCA analysis). The figure in m. 39 more or less preserves the rhythm from that of m. 37, but recycles the contour and interval content of the figure from m. 26, (with an added F inserted between E and A). The figure in m. 51 refers more directly back to m. 26, rhythmically diminished but with identical interval content. Finally, the first eight notes in m. 59 are a literal transposition of the figure from m. 39. The MCA analysis of the Jarrett shows that his phrase beginnings, in contrast, are more likely to involve dovetailing from the end of immediately preceding phrases than references to earlier phrase beginnings.9 This again underscores the constant forward developmental motion on display in Jarretts solo in comparison to the Mehldaus. It should be emphasized, however that Jarrets solo is not without motivic glue that spans over large

multiple structural levels throughout Jarretts solo, and the original melody of Just in Time, as will be discussed below in conjunction with higher level motives and motivic parallelisms 9 One important exception to this is the lower neighbor note figure from the melody, which Jarrett uses in one way or another to begin choruses 1, 2, and 3.


sections of the solo. In the course of building phrases that transformatively push motivic material forward, Jarrett often returns to important motivic elements. Two of the most ubiquitously referenced elements are the lower neighbor note figure from the original melody (e.g. mm. 1-3, 32-35, 54, 67, 74), and the stepwise descending third, discussed below in conjunction with motivic parallelisms and higher level motives.

D. Motivic Parallelisms, Higher-Level Motives.

In example 14 above, it was suggested that the opening gesture X and X' from Mehldaus solo could be interpreted as a motivic parallelism. The single, descending step outlined by both figures is in fact a likely candidate for a higher-level motive operating throughout the solo. Its origin clearly lies in the in the original melody, where it is repeatedly and prominently outlined slightly below the surface, in parallel with the bass (see example 2, mm. 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 17-19, 25-26, 27-28, 29-30, 33-36). A single, descending step is of course an entirely rudimentary element of any music, tonal or otherwise, that employs scalar material. But if it is recurrently cast in high relief, in relative isolation from its surroundings, there is no reason that a single, descending step may not be considered to be motivic.

Ex 27: Mehldau, mm. 1-2

Pitches A and G in the Mehldaus opening passage above would be low on a traditional Schenkerian hierarchy of harmonic structuralness, as they both form elevenths with the bass. But their rhythmic placement (and articulation) lends them an irrefutable structural importance in their melodic context. It is quite possible to hear echoes of these measure-long descending steps as they are elaborated in different ways over the course of the solo:

Ex 28: Mehldau, mm.5-7


The upper part of above two-part melody similarly outlines a step from mm. 5 to 6, the A in m.5 appearing as an anticipation to beat 1 of m.6. The lower part outlines a descending step from both m.5 to m.6 and m.6 to m.7. Here the structuralness of the pitches involved in the stepwise motion is determined both rhythmically and harmonically. In mm. 43-48, Mehldau departs radically from the harmonic form of the original. But in mm. 43-46 he twice outlines a measure long (minus anticipations) descending step with the highest points of the arpeggio melody:

Ex 29: Mehldau, mm. 43-46

When he returns to the form harmonically in m.49 (4 bars into the second A section as in example 28), Mehldau again refers to the opening gesture, with ornamented step from B-flat to A

Ex 30: Mehldau, mm. 49-50

One might also interpret the following surface appearances of isolated, single stepwise descents as motivic parallelisms with the opening, especially as they are given emphasis with articulation:

Ex 31: Mehldau, mm. 22-25


A motive that appears to recur on multiple levels of Jarretts solo on Just in Time is the stepwise descending filled-in third. As with Mehldaus descending step, the origin of this higher-level motive lies in both the melody and harmony of the original composition. From a Schenkerian perspective, however, this motive would seem to have even deeper structural implications in Just in Time than does the single descending step in I Didnt Know What Time it Was:

Ex 32: Berlin, Just in Time, middle-ground reduction

In the above middle-ground reduction of the original Just in Time, the stepwise descending third emerges as a motivic element over various prolongational spans: First, it appears in the bass from mm.1-5 preparing a movement to II. At one structural level higher, it occurs as parallel tenths between soprano and bass (allowing for registeral transfer in the melody) in mm. 1, 15, and 17 as the harmony moves from a prolonged tonic to VI via bVII. Next, it appears closer to the surface in the bass as a movement preparing II in mm. 23-25. Finally it emerges as the Ur-line of the form as a whole.10


However, since Jarrett always prolongs the dominant between choruses to connect them

(i.e. dispensing with the tonic at mm 31-32 of the form), individual choruses arent


The improvised melody on Jarretts first solo chorus contains multiple explicit occurrences of the stepwise descending third, on at least two structural levels. Mm. 1-5 elaborate parallel tenths with the falling bass line (with the C in m.2 occurring as a 2.5 beat anticipation to the next measure, and registrally transferred in m.4).

Ex 33: Jarrett, mm.1-5

The descending third is also already present on the surface in the opening figure in m.1, comprising a classic example of a nested motivic parallelism. In the next phrase, the motive is taken up on the surface as a closing figure, which subsequently undergoes rhythmic transformation and inversion:

Ex 34: Jarrett, mm.9-18

Finally, it occurs as atop a prolongation of II (and ultimately V) at the end of the form, spelled out in the lowest notes of the melody:

Ex 36: Jarrett, mm. 24-30

harmonically closed. Therefore, the Ur-line will not apply to the background-most structures of the individual choruses as performed by Jarrett)


Later on, there are numerous other explicit appearances of the motive on or close to the surface (e.g. mm. 36-7, 45, 49, 51, 56, 58, 88-91). And in the beginning of the fourth chorus, Jarrett employs the same contrapuntal skeleton (parallel tenths) as in the beginning of the first chorus:

Ex 37: Jarrett, mm. 96-101

Jarretts solo also contains other, isolated examples of different motivic elements that are repeated in close proximity on slightly different, close-to-surface structural levels. In the example below, an arpeggio of stacked thirds (D, F, A, C) is decorated by lower neighbors (C and A themselves functioning as neighbors to Bb), then appears in the next phrase entirely as a surface element (with the F raised to F# as the leading tone in a V7/VI):

Ex 38: Jarrett, mm.33-36

In the next example, the ubiquitous leap of the third that ends the previous and subsequent phrases is elaborated as a stepwise descent (decorated with arpeggio material) in mm. 57-58:

Ex 39: Jarrett, mm. 54-63


Below, the consonant leap down of a third in m. 118, decorated by an upper neighbor note, is stretched out and slightly elaborated at the end of the phrase in m.120:

Ex 40: Jarrett, mm. 117-120

These examples are all superficial motivic parallelisms that may aid in creating continuity in specific passages, but have little bearing on the solos overall thematic coherence or deeper structures. However, they offer additional evidence of Jarretts ability to create motivic associations between structural levels in local contexts.

E: Linear aspects of motivic organization

Just in Time and I Didnt Know What Time it Was have different enough structural features so that it is perhaps difficult to draw conclusions based on a comparison of Jarretts and Mehldaus use of higher-level motives in their improvised melodies. But examining the two solos through the lens of voice-leading in general suggests a contrast worth a final note: Jarrett seems to show a higher tendency than Mehldau to organize his motivic material in such a way that basic voice-leading events implicit in the underlying chord progressions are emphasized.


Since both compositions under consideration contain ample passages based on cycles of fifths, they also contain passages in which one or more voice in the underlying chord progression undergoes a linear descent, diatonic or chromatic, in its voice-leading with the bass. This is illustrated in the rudimentary three-voice harmonization of each tune below:

Ex 41 A-B: rudimentary three-voice harmonization of underlying chord progressions (linear descents, diatonic or chromatic, indicated with slurs) A: I Didnt Know What Time it Was

B: Just in Time


The extent to which each players improvised melodies outline portions of these linear progressions, then, would have implications regarding their tendencies to emphasize underlying voice-leading events in general. In Jarretts solo, significant portions of these linear progressions very often emerge as the frame of his improvised melody, clearly outlined in his manipulation of motivic elements. A particularly striking example is given once again by the beginning of the fourth chorus:

Ex 42: Jarrett, mm. 96-110


Here, Jarrett organizes his motivic material to outline a descent, allowing for registral transfers, from D-G over the first 14 bars of the form. The descent is initially diatonic, but then chromatic from C onwards, and corresponds exactly to the upper voice of the above three-part harmonization of Just in Time. Similar examples, though not as extensive, can be found throughout the solo. Moreover, in almost all of the stepwise progressions indicated in the MCA analysis of Jarretts solo, each constituent pitch is involved in some underlying linear voice-leading progression. I Didnt Know What Time it Was doesnt contain as long a cycle of fifths as occurs in the first half of Just in Time (its longest, from mm.3-6 in Mehldaus first solo chorus, contains 6 iterations: E-A-D-G-C-F). But even on this scale, Mehldaus improvised melodies outline relatively few pitches from any of the potential linear progressions implicit in the chord progression. And in contrast to stepwise progressions of Jarretts solo, only small portions of the stepwise progressions that Mehldau employs correspond to voice-leading events in the underlying harmony. Mehldaus opening passage offers a telling point of comparison with the Jarrett example above:

Ex 43:Mehldau, mm.1-8


In the indicated stepwise progression, only two of the constituent pitches participate in an essential voice-leading progression: Bb-A, or 4^ to 3^ atop a II, V, I progression in F-major, in m5. Other stepwise progressions in Mehldaus solo are similarly ungrounded in the structural voice leading of the underlying harmony. A more extensive analysis of voice leading phenomena in the two solos is outside the scope of this study. But the conjectures presented here offer direction for further research. Correspondence, or lack-thereof, between improvised melodies and structural voice-leading events in the underlying harmonic progression may indeed have a very significant role in the motivic strategies - and improvisatory style in general - of the two players in question.

V. Conclusion

When interpreted with an eye to process, MCA analyses of the two solos studied lead to clear evidence of Jarrett's relative propensity, compared to Mehldau, for tightly woven motivic work characterized by forward-moving transformation of small motivic fragments. They also reveal Mehldau's tendency to use motivic material as points of reference that bind longer spans of music together. Supplementing the MCA categories with Schenkerian perspectives shows that both players create motivic connections between structural levels, and ground some of their most important subsurface motives in the original compositions over which they improvise. Preliminary voice leading analysis of the solos, in turn suggests that Jarrett shows a higher tendency than Mehldau to guide his improvised melodies by linear voice-leading progressions implicit in underlying harmony.


To acknowledge that Mehldau is less inclined to execute passages of continual, closely packed motivic transformation is not to imply that he is somehow a less skilled improviser. The relative merits of each player in his idiom of course depend on the aesthetic criteria by which they might be evaluated. When I once commended Jarrett's flair for motivic development in a conversation with drummer/pianist Jukkis Uotila, for example, Uotila responded, "yes, but so what," and proceeded to list other factors he deemed more important in defining the bebop idiom, areas in which he personally felt Jarrett was lacking. And if Jarrett's improvised melodies are more guided by structural voice leading events implicit in underlying harmony than are Mehldau's, this does not mean that Jarrett is in general a better voice-leader or has a better handle on harmonic form. It merely means that Jarrett tends to articulate harmonic form in a more "classical" fashion than Mehldau. The resulting harmonic clarity in Jarrett's melodic improvisation can again be understood as an aspect of his style, as with his propensity for motivic transformation. Harmony in general would in fact be a very fruitful topic of study for additional comparison between Jarrett and Mehldau. Even in the limited context of their bebop-centered performances, cursory listening indicates that this is an area in which two players diverge significantly, with Mehldau seemingly employing a more expansive and liberal approach than Jarrett. None of the contrasts between the two players motivic improvisatory styles discussed in this study refute claims that Mehldau has been influenced by Jarrett. But they do imply that such claims can be easily exaggerated. And they perhaps suggest that the hypothetical lawsuit referred to above regarding plagiarism of Jarrett's "piano-trio concept" most likely would not be worth anyone's while.

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Keith Jarrett, Standards in Norway. ECM. 1989 Brad Mehldau, Art of the Trio, Volume I. Warner Bros / Wea. 1997